Leicester City’s Thai billionaire owner will forever be adored by fans of the club for the ‘miracle of Leicester’, when, in 2016, the unlikely underdogs won the Premier League against all odds.
He gave the lowly club a secret weapon on their road to the title – the Buddhist monks with whom he would pray at the stadium to bring the team good luck before home games.
But although Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha has become a friend of the British Royal family through the world of polo, a sport in which he is as familiar a figure as he is in football, his name left many scratching their heads when he bought the club in 2010.
Mr Srivaddhanaprabha, 61, left, is pictured with Prince Charles in 2006. Mr Srivaddhanaprabha brings a touch of nobility to the Premier League, having played polo in the same team as Prince Charles and Prince William
Yet Mr Srivaddhanaprabha, 61, had long been a renowned figure in Asia. From an ethnic Chinese family, he has amassed a fortune of more than £2 billion since 1989 when he founded the first store in his King Power empire selling Thai handicrafts.
He went on to achieve much of his vast wealth through a chain of duty-free shops.
His deep affection for Leicester City is rooted in the first game he saw live in this country, the 1997 League Cup final at Wembley when the club played Middlesbrough. Emile Heskey scored a late equaliser for Leicester to force a replay – with the club going on to triumph in extra time of the second match.
So devoted is he to the Foxes that he regularly arrives hours before the start of a match to take in the atmosphere, often accompanied by his Buddhist monk companions.
Two of his children have played for the King Power Foxes polo team, above, which he lavished with millions and transformed into the best polo team in the world – they have around 60 staff and 80 ponies stabled at their 100-acre Berkshire estate
The Thai owner, whose name – meaning ‘light of progressive glory’ – was given to him by his country’s former king, often enjoys a £200 bottle of St Emilion red wine before the game and his staff insist he is just as passionate as the thousands of fans who pack out the King Power stadium.
When Leicester won promotion to the Premier League, he invited the squad for a meal of caviar and fine wine in an upmarket West London restaurant and picked up the bill. He even gave each player and staff member a £1,000 chip to gamble at a private members’ club nearby.
‘Watching him would be like watching a fan – he would jump up and cheer when they scored, scowl and curse when they conceded,’ said Alex Hylton, one of his former assistants.
‘The only difference is that he would be wearing a shirt and blazer. A father-of-four, his busy business schedule sees Mr Srivaddhanaprabha jetting around the world.
Leicester owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s helicopter crashed outside the King Power Stadium
A committed Anglophile – he has a home in Berkshire as well as in Thailand – his three eldest children Voramas, now 37, Apichet, 36, nicknamed ‘Tip’, and Arunroong, 34, were sent to boarding school in England while his youngest son Aiyawatt, 32, known as ‘Top’, was schooled in Bangkok.
When asked the secret of Leicester City’s success, Top said: ‘It’s the culture that we brought to the team. It’s the Thai culture. We give our time to the staff, the players and to the manager. We try to manage it like a family, try to listen to the problems of every member of staff.’
At yesterday’s game, one fan summed up the success of Mr Srivaddhanaprabha and his family. ‘They have conducted themselves so well, they have put everything into us. They have made us champions. You cannot ask for more from your owners.’
Mr Srivaddhanaprabha regularly left the King Power via his £2million Augusta Westland AW-169 helicopter but it remains unclear whether he was on it when it crashed earlier
Mr Srivaddhanaprabha brings a touch of nobility to the Premier League, having played polo in the same team as Prince Charles and Prince William. He was appointed president of Ham Polo Club in London in 2008, a role he held for four years.
Two of his children have played for the King Power Foxes polo team, which he lavished with millions and transformed into the best polo team in the world – they have around 60 staff and 80 ponies stabled at their 100-acre Berkshire estate.
His investment paid off in 2015 when they won the hallowed polo double – the Queen’s Cup at Guards Polo Club, which was presented by The Queen and Prince Philip, and the Gold Cup at Cowdray Park.