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Self-made Red Bull co-founder dies

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 8:45 PM EDT, Sat March 17, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chaleo Yoovidhya co-founded Red Bull, the energy drink company
  • He and an Austrian entrepreneur started the brand in the mid-1980s
  • Chaleo had created an early version of the drink in Thailand

(CNN) -- Before there was the famous Red Bull, there was Krating Daeng, a sweet energy drink sold in Thailand and a few other countries. Its labels feature two red bulls charging one another.

Chaleo Yoovidhya, who with an Austrian entrepreneur transformed his noncarbonated concoction into the global brand Red Bull, died of natural causes Saturday, according to MCOT, Thailand's national news agency.

Chaleo was in his 80s.

The self-made business mogul was ranked 205th this year in Forbes' list of billionaires, with a net worth estimated at $5 billion. That made him Thailand's third wealthiest person. Chaleo also founded TC Pharmaceuticals.

Chaleo and Dietrich Mateschitz adapted the formula to Western tastes in 1984. Krating Daeng translates to Red Bull in English.

They each owned 49% of the privately held company, with Chaleo's son holding the balance of 2%. Mateschitz ran the company, according to MCOT.

The battling bovines, the slogan "Red Bull Gives You Wings" and the berry-flavored drink blended to become a worldwide commercial bonanza.

Red Bull, headquartered in Austria, is available in 164 countries worldwide. The company also owns sports and racing teams.

Much of Red Bull's marketing and distribution success is due to Mateschitz, who became aware of "tonic drinks" in the Far East.

Krating Daeng became popular in Asia in the 1970s and 1980s, especially among truck drivers, construction workers and farmers, according to MCOT.

On business trips, Mateschitz tried a drink sold in Thai pharmacies as a revitalizing agent. He noticed it put a dent in his jet lag.

"I realized that these little syrups developed in Japan did extremely well all over Asia," Mateschitz told Forbes in 2005.

The Austrian, after studying the market, and Chaleo decided to co-found Red Bull, each investing $500,000 in their bid to reach the global market, according to Forbes.

Since 1987, an estimated 30 billion cans of Red Bull have been consumed, according to the company.

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