Thai billionaire sent monks to bless Foxes
THE duty-free Thai billionaire behind Leicester City's Premier League title is a hit with fans and royalty alike - and he now stands to cash in on one of football's greatest fairytales.
Polo-loving Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, 58, rubs shoulders with celebrities and his surname, meaning "light of progressive glory", was bestowed by Thailand's revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Despite his popularity, Mr Vichai remains enigmatic as he rarely gives interviews, preferring to let his son, Aiyawatt, known as "Top", act as the family frontman.
Mr Top, Leicester's vice-chairman, told Agence France-Presse in Bangkok last month: "He said, I think two or three years before, that he wants the team to be a success in the Premier League, and now we are."
The avuncular Vichai has built an estimated fortune of US$2.9 billion (S$3.9 billion) since establishing King Power in 1989 - starting with a single shop in Bangkok.
Leicester supporters quickly warmed to Mr Vichai after he bought the then Championship strugglers for an estimated £40 million in 2010.
The devout Buddhist is a firm believer in the power of karma, flying in Thai monks to bless Leicester's pitch and give their players lucky amulets.
The Buddhist monk, Phra Prommangkalachan, who has blessed Leicester City's players and stadium said he prayed deep into the night as the Foxes pulled off one of the biggest ever sporting shocks by winning the English Premier League.
"I prayed for them from 2am till 4am... but the victory does not come from me, it's from the team and the goodness of the owner," he told AFP.
Several hundred supporters in the deeply superstitious country, many wearing lucky amulets and other talismans, have flocked to screenings of recent matches at the vast downtown headquarters of the King Power firm.
Another party is expected in Bangkok for Saturday's visit of Everton to the King Power Stadium, where Leicester will hoist the trophy.
The club's success has been crafted from teamwork and endeavour, and the astute leadership of manager Claudio Ranieri, rather than an expensive squad of stars.
"The success of Leicester City, it's because of Mr Vichai," said Thai FA chief Somyot Poompanmoung, who has known the billionaire for more than 30 years.
"He takes care, or he looks after his players, or his team, like a father looking after his children. He is very close to the players."