Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha opened his first King Power retail store in downtown Bangkok in 1989. The business made modest returns until Vichai struck upon the idea of expanding into Thailand’s airports.
In 2006 he established a duty-free mall in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, now the 12th busiest in the world. Revenue flooded in on an upsurge of wealthy Chinese tourists flying into the country. By establishing close relationships with the Thai political elite – his second name was bestowed upon him by King Bhumibol in 2012 – Vichai subsequently built a monopoly on duty-free in Thailand’s three major airports.
He bought Leicester City for £39m in 2010, and has demonstrated a similar knack for ingratiating himself during his tenure there. In April, as the Foxes’ footballing fairy tale gathered pace, fans picked up free doughnuts and Singha beer during a home game against Southampton.
- Turned a downtown retail shop into a duty-free empire with a monopoly in Thailand’s three busiest airports.
- From modest beginnings, became Thailand’s fourth richest man with a fortune of £2bn.
- Bought Leicester City for £39m in 2010; six years and a Premier League title later, they are estimated to be worth £436m.
Lessons for your store
- Think outside the box – buying Leicester City was an unexpected gamble that has paid off many times over.
- Look for innovative ways to expand – Vichai’s fortune was built by moving from the high street into Thailand’s airports.
- Build good rapport with customers and colleagues – as well providing free beer and donuts, Vichai has subsidised bus travel to Leicester’s away games.