Chinese investment in Bordeaux: Four feared dead in helicopter crash at La Riviere

chatea de la riviere

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By Jim Boyce

Tragic news is emerging from Bordeaux following the sale of a legendary chateau to a Chinese investor. The buyer and three other passengers are feared dead in a helicopter crash that happened hours after a ceremony to celebrate the deal.

AFP reported yesterday on the sale of chateau La Riviere:

A Chinese group specialising in rare teas and luxury hotels has bought a historic chateau and vineyard near Bordeaux with the aim of turning it into a high class tea and wine tasting centre.

The Hong Kong-based Brilliant group, whose interests range from Pu’er — a dark fermented tea from China’s Yunnan region — to top-end resorts, acquired La Riviere chateau and its 65-hectare (160-acre) vineyard, the owners said.

“It’s the biggest Chinese investment to this day in terms of value,” in the wine-producing area, Xavier Buffo, La Riviere’s managing director said but did not mention the sum.

The chateau dates back to the 8th century and is associated with Emperor Charlemagne.

The excitement behind the deal was reflected in a post on Weixin by a friend who hails from that area of France:

“Another chateau in Fronsac is sold to Chinese investors. Chateau La Riviere, one of the most beautiful Fronsac chateau, is sold to a Chinese company to make a luxury spa. So many Chinese investors in Fronsac now, I think they know it’s the most beautiful village [smiley face].”

It came as a shock to read a short time later that the former owner and the new owner, his son and a translator are missing and feared dead after they took a helicopter ride to survey the property and crashed into a river. Again from AFP:

Four people were feared dead Saturday including a Chinese billionaire and his 12-year-old son after the helicopter in which he was overflying his newly purchased French vineyard crashed into a river.

Lam Kok, the 46-year-old head of the Hong Kong-based Brilliant group, had just bought a major Bordeaux vineyard in a sale accompanied by great fanfare and was surveying his new property in a helicopter piloted by the former owner when the accident happened Friday.

Emergency workers pulled a still-unidentified body from inside the helicopter after finding the wreckage in the Dordogne river, said local officials.

A large search operation was called off just before midnight with the helicopter’s other three occupants still missing. Officials said the search would resume Saturday morning.

The helicopter was flown by James Gregoire, the former owner of the Chateau de la Riviere vineyard, and was carrying the Chinese billionaire, his son and an interpreter.

AFP reports the spouse of Lam Kok decided not to join the trip because she was “scared of helicopters”. As the search is still underway, hopefully some good news will emerge in this story.

(Photo: Rivierre website)

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