April 11, 2018 / 1:59 AM / a year ago

China's HNA Group taps former U.S. official for senior global role

BEIJING, April 11 (Reuters) - China's HNA Group, the aviation-to-financial services conglomerate that is selling assets and restructuring operations, has hired a former U.S. commerce department official for a senior strategy role.

Israel Hernandez, who most recently served as a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, has joined the company as head of international corporate relations, HNA announced in a statement Wednesday.

Hernandez will report to HNA Group CEO Adam Tan and focus on corporate and investor affairs for the conglomerate, which claimed more than half its more than $100 billion in revenue last year was earned overseas.

The appointment of the Texas native, who also served as the Acting Undersecretary of Trade between April and December last year, comes at a pivotal moment for HNA, which is trying to settle overseas regulatory investigations while undertaking a widespread restructuring of its operations.

The Hernandez appointment "reflects the priority we are placing on maintaining an open dialogue with – and providing accurate, timely and strategically aligned information about our business activities to – the wide array of constituents we serve, depend on, and partner with," Tan said in the statement.

Following a $50 billion acquisition spree, HNA has been deleveraging its businesses, selling overseas real estate and some of its biggest financial and strategic investments.

Since the start of the year, HNA has agreed to sell more than $10 billion in prime real estate in Australia, New York and Hong Kong, along with shares in Deutsche Bank, Park Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Grand Vacations Inc and Hilton Worldwide Holdings.

The group also is looking to turn a corner with regulators who are examining HNA's ownership, following the announcement last year of a shareholding reshuffle that saw a 29.5 percent group stake placed in a newly established U.S. charity.

Hernandez is expected to work with HNA's portfolio companies to develop business strategies and "build relationships" with business partners, employees and regulators, the statement said.

Earlier in his career, Hernandez was an assistant to U.S. President George W. Bush and served as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for International Trade. He also has held senior roles at TPG Capital and Facebook. (Reporting by Matthew Miller; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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