MANILA, Philippines – One of Asia’s richest men has died.
Chaleo Yoovidhya, a billionaire from Thailand who co-founded the popular Red Bull brand, died of natural causes, according to an Associated Press report on Saturday, March 17.
Chaleo, who is in his 80’s, was ranked by Forbes magazine as the 205th richest man in the world in its latest billionaires list. He is the 3rd richest in Thailand.
Forbes estimated that his wealth has reached $5 billion — a far cry from the early days of Red Bull, which was launched in 1987.
Chaleo started a pharmaceutical industry in the 1960’s, formulated an energy drink prototype a decade later called Krathing Daeng, which means Red Bull in English.
The business soared after he partnered with Dietrich Mateschitz, a moneyed Austrian who had discovered the powers of Red Bull as a cure for jet lag. Mateschitz ranks 193 on the Forbes billionaire list. He and Chaleo each own half of the company.
Red Bull has become a global iconic brand in the “energy drinks” fad-turned-industry.
It was initially popular among truck drivers and other blue-collar workers throughout Thailand.
He was married twice and had 11 children — 5 from his first wife and 6 from his second.
He was born in a poor Chinese migrant family in Phichit that earned their living raising ducks and selling fruit. His first jobs included being a bus conductor.
Red Bull also owns two football clubs and a Formula 1 team.
Straight from the son
Thai media said he never flaunted the wealth he accumulated and avoided publicity.
The Nation, a Thai media group, called Chaleo a business genius.
In its report on Sunday, March 18, The Nation cited a recent interview with Chaleo’s son Saravudh.
A YouTube video of the interview with Saravudh is below. The Nation said an English version will be available later.
An excerpt of the The Nation interview with Saravudh, translated in English, is below:
“I never heard words like ‘difficult’ or ‘impossible’ from my father. He dedicated his life to his work and never complained that he was tired. He really enjoyed his work and sometimes carried on until 1 or 2am. When he talked about his work, he was always very happy and active.
“My father believed that if he wanted to launch a new product, it had to be distinct from the market leader. While the market leader of the energy-drink market mainly targeted the capital, Red Bull pushed into the provincial market first, gaining a foothold by distributing free samples to truck drivers. After its huge success upcountry, Red Bull was later marketed in the capital. He stressed on brand building – a marketing strategy that had not been widely employed up to that time. His strategy has proved to be a key factor in the strength of the Red Bull brand. He was also the first to float the idea of Red Bull going international.”
The Nation added this in its report: Saravudh stressed that his father never stopped learning. Though he did not receive high education, he studied by himself, especially English and law as he believed these subjects were essential for doing business. When he first introduced Red Bull into the overseas market, “impossible” never came into his mind, even at a time when Thailand was relatively unknown to many countries. – Rappler.com