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Chaleo, Red Bull Co-Founder and Thailand’s 3rd-Richest Man, Dies

Thailand’s Third-Richest Man Chaleo Yoovidhya
Thailand’s third-richest Man Chaleo Yoovidhya has died, aged 89. Photographer: Matichon Newspaper/AP

Chaleo Yoovidhya, Thailand’s third-richest man whose energy drink spawned the Red Bull franchise popular with partiers, students, truckers and athletes around the globe, has died. He was 89.

Chaleo passed away on March 17 in Bangkok, according to a message of condolence posted on the company’s website. He owned 49 percent of Red Bull GmbH, a venture he formed with Austrian entrepreneur Dietrich Mateschitz in 1984 that created a new category of energy drinks.

Chaleo “lived a simple life,” Sarawut Yoovidhya, his son, said in a video posted to Youtube last month. “I never heard him complain that he was tired. When talking about his work, he looked lively and happy. He valued honesty and credibility.”

In 1962, Chaleo developed an uncarbonated drink laced with sugar and caffeine called Krating Daeng, which means “red bull” in Thai. The drink, a copy-cat competitor to Japanese energy drink Lipovitan-D, quickly became a hit with truck drivers and laborers, according to “Thai Capital After the 1997 Crisis” edited by Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit.

Chaleo targeted rural consumers for his product, unlike his competitors who sought wealthier urban consumers, Sarawut said. In particular, Chaleo focused on building the brand to convey strength and power, he said.

Twenty years later, toothpaste salesman Mateschitz tried the drink on a trip to Thailand and found that it cured his jet lag. In 1984, he approached Chaleo with a plan to carbonate the drink and introduce it to the rest of the world, Bloomberg Businessweek reported last year.

Both invested $500,000 to establish a 49/49 partnership, with the remaining 2 percent going to Yoovidhya’s son.

Chaleo was worth $5 billion, third-richest in Thailand behind Dhanin Chearavanont, chairman of Charoen Pokphand Group, and Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, who owns the nation’s largest beer and whiskey maker, according to Forbes.

Red Bull, based in Fuschl am See, Austria, sold more than 4.6 billion cans of its energy drink last year, up 11 percent from 2010, the company said on its website. It employs more than 8,000 people in 164 countries.

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