Central group patriarch dies
- Published: 15/09/2012 at 03:14 PM
- Online news:
Vanchai Chirathivat, the head of one of Thailand's richest business families, died early Saturday from prostate cancer. He was 84.
Vanchai, the founder and chairman of Central Group of Companies, passed away peacefully at 7.19am with his children and grandchildren by his bedside at Bumrungrad International Hospital. He had been admitted to the hospital for cancer treatment almost two weeks ago.
A royally sponsored bathing rite was being held on Saturday at 5pm at Wat Thepsirin in Bangkok. The funeral rites will be held until Friday.
Starting from a small family shop in Bang Khunthian in the 1940s, Vanchai oversaw the development of a retailing and hospitality conglomerate that includes Central Department Store and the Centara Hotels and Resorts group.
The patriarch of the Chirathivat clan became the chairman of Central Group in 1992 after his eldest brother Samrit died.
The success of the Central businesses in Thailand and internationally has helped make the Chirathivat family the second wealthiest in Thailand, with an estimated net worth of US$6.9 billion in 2012, according to Forbes magazine.
Vanchai Chirathivat was born in Bangkok to Tiang Chirathivat (1905–68), who had migrated from Hainan island in southern China. Tiang had three wives and 25 children; today they and their descendants continue to jointly own and manage the Central Group.
The second child of eight, Vanchai worked in his grandfather's grocery store and later in the family's own shop called Kheng Seng Lee in Bang Khunthian, selling coffee, food and construction materials, and also offering tailoring and barbering.
A good student at Assumption School where he learned business and English, he continued his studies at Assumption Commercial College and worked at nights and holidays at his cousin's petrol station in Suriwong.
His father began selling imported books in the shop, which was moved in 1945 to Sri Phaya and named Central Trading.
In a profile in GH Bank Housing Journal in January 2008, Vanchai said he and his older brother Samrit, who had worked in an international shipping company, took a special interest in the book business. They started selling books and international magazines such as Life and Vogue. The business was a first for Thailand and became very profitable.
Attracted by the product advertisements he saw in the magazines, Vanchai began importing clothing, accessories and cosmetics for sale. In 1947, he leased a two-storey shophouse to sell imported goods, and it became a meeting place for people who had been educated overseas.
In 1950, the family bought land in front of Assumption School on Charoen Krung Road and built a two-storey Central Trading store. In 1956 the family opened Central Wang Burapha, the first store in Thailand to carry price labels on its goods.
The business continued to expand with the opening of Central Silom in 1968, but it was not until Central Chidlom opened in 1973 that the family realised its dream of running a full-service, one-stop department store.
Since then, Central Retail Corp has introduced many firsts in Thailand’s retail industry such as opening Zen, the country's first lifestyle specialty department store in 1990; the first hypermarket in 1994; and the first upscale cosmopolitan dining hall with open kitchens, FoodLoft in 2003.
The group branched out into hotels when it opened the Central Ladprao shopping centre in 1983, as its land lease with the State Railway of Thailand called for it to operate a hotel on the site. Today the group's Central Plaza Hotel Plc operates 39 hotels in Thailand and abroad under its Centara brands plus five restaurant chains.
Central Group also has major interests in property development and product distribution.
Central Retail Corporation (CRC), which contributes 70% of the group’s total revenues, now operates several retail units including Central, Robinson and Zen department stores, Tops Supermarket, Power Buy electronics stores, Super Sport sporting goods, HomeWorks home improvement stores, B2S book and stationery stores, and Office Depot office product stores. CRC went abroad to acquire La Rinascente, an upscale department store in Italy, last year.
Vanchai is survived by four sons and one daughter. All five work with Central Group including Mr Kobchai, president and CEO of Central Pattana Plc, the group’s property arm, which is responsible for CentralPlaza shopping complexes across the country.
Vanchai Chirathivat (Post Photo)
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- Writer: Online Reporters
Position: Online Reporters