The Life And Death Of A Billionaire Who Took Leicester To The Top

He was the quiet but beloved Thai billionaire who took Leicester from the periphery to the premiership, his mid-pitch helicopter takeoffs becoming a trademark of his time at the top.

But tragically it was his signature departure which killed Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the Leicester City Football Club owner and four others, shortly after take-off from the stadium after a 1-1 draw with West Ham on Saturday.

Srivaddhanaprabha was a retail baron in his homeland for many years before coming to western attention in 2010, as his duty-free group King Power took over the struggling soccer team.

Leicester were in the Championship, or second division of English football, at the time and had just been promoted from the third division.

READ MORE: Leicester City Soccer Club Confirm Owner Dead In Helicopter Crash

Within five years, the team had claimed what may be the most unlikely Premier League title in history, topping the league in the 2015-16 season.

Leicester City celebrate winning the Barclays Premier League, after the match at the King Power Stadium, Leicester (Nick Potts/PA Wire)

He had formerly founded and led King Power Duty Free, a chain of tax-free stores in his native Thailand. With duty-free shopping malls, as well as stores in airports. King Power made Srivaddhanaprabha -- whom Leicester called Khun Vichai -- a very rich man.

He was valued at over $3 billion by Forbes, one of the richest men in the country, and the company received a royal warrant from the king of Thailand.

His helicopter rides became a fixture of Leicester games. (Nick Potts/PA Wire)

It was in 2010 that he stretched his influence to England, however, buying up Leicester. He had dreams to turn the club into a powerhouse of European football, pouring in a reported 100 million pounds to supercharge the team's promotion into the top league. After that upgrade in 2014, he said he wanted the team to place in the Premier League's top five within a few years.

He got that and more just two years later as the team won the lot, catapulting them to the Champions League and rubbing shoulders with the true global footballing elite.

(AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)

The man bought a BMW for every member of the winning team, and made other headlines for donating millions to charity or giving out dozens of free season tickets to big club fans.

Unlike other billionaire club owners, who tip money into the team's roster and facilities but are rarely spotted on game day, Srivaddhanaprabha was a regular at the stadium -- Leicester's home ground even renamed King Power after the retailer that made him rich. His helicopter ride into the stadium, landing in the middle of the pitch, became a fixture of home games.

"In Khun Vichai, the world has lost a great man. A man of kindness, of generosity, and a man whose life was defined by the love he devoted to his family and those he so successfully led," Leicester said in a tweet confirming his death on Monday (AEST).

It was a helicopter crash that ended the billionaire's life. Four others also perished.

"Leicester City was a family under his leadership. It is as a family that we will grieve his passing and maintain the pursuit of a vision for the club that is now his legacy."