BANGKOK - Chaleo Yoovidhya, the self-made Thai billionaire who introduced the world to “energy drinks’’ and co-founded the globally popular Red Bull brand, has died. He was in his 80s.
Mr. Chaleo died of natural causes in Bangkok Saturday, according to media reports and state television broadcaster MCOT, which cited the Thai Beverage Industry Association.
Forbes magazine, which ranked Mr. Chaleo the 205th richest man in the world this year with a net worth of $5 billion, said he was 80 years old. Several Thai media outlets cited his birthdate as Aug. 17, 1923, however, indicating he was 88.
Born in central Thailand’s Pichit Province to a Chinese father and a Thai mother who reportedly sold fruit and ducks to survive, Mr. Chaleo died the third richest man in Thailand.
He started a small company, T.C. Pharmaceuticals, in the 1960s and formulated an energy drink prototype a decade later called Krathing Daeng, or Red Bull in English.
The drink became popular among truck drivers and other blue-collar workers throughout the country, but it remained a local phenomenon until Mr. Chaleo met Austrian entrepreneur Dietrich Mateschitz.
Together, the pair modified Mr. Chaleo’s initial formula and founded the international Red Bull brand.
Launched in 1987, Red Bull now sells billions of iconic slim cans across the world annually. Mateschitz and Mr. Chaleo each owned roughly half of the company.
Thailand’s daily Nation newspaper said Mr. Chaleo “will be remembered as a business and marketing genius who put the Thai energy drink on the global map.’’
He was married with five children, according to the Nation.