Yoovidhya family makes new push in China

Yoovidhya family makes new push in China

$150m committed to expanding Red Bull sales following dispute with former partner

Saravoot Yoovidhya, chief executive officer of TCP Group, has begun a new push to market “legitimate” Red Bull products in China.
Saravoot Yoovidhya, chief executive officer of TCP Group, has begun a new push to market “legitimate” Red Bull products in China.

Thailand’s Yoovidhya family is preparing to invest US$150 million to re-establish the Red Bull energy-drink brand in China, where they have been involved in a protracted battle of billionaires with a former partner.

The family’s TCP Group formed a venture in China with the Reignwood Group, controlled by Chinese-Thai businessman Chanchai Ruayrungruang, also known as Yan Bin, in the mid-1990s. The partnership, Red Bull Vitamin Drink Co Ltd, expired in September 2018, TCP said.

The Red Bull brand, products and distribution rights have been the subjects of litigation in various centres since the partnership broke up, with Reignwood retaining control of the China business. But TCP Group still owns the Red Bull brand and trademarks in China and worldwide.

TCP said in a statement that its new investments in China would support local partnerships, establish a new representative office, in-country team and manufacturing centres, as well as support the launch of new Red Bull products and other products from the company’s global portfolio.

“At its heart, this ambitious strategy is focused on continuing to provide high-quality and legitimate Red Bull products to the vast number of Chinese consumers,” it said in a veiled reference to the dispute with the former partner.

TCP said its sales in China last year, the first full period since the end of the joint venture, were about $150 million. Reignwood’s revenue from Red Bull in the country was 22.3 billion yuan ($3.1 billion) in 2019, according to a report by Yicai Global.

The Yoovidhya family was ranked Asia’s sixth-richest, with a fortune of $24.5 billion, according to a Bloomberg report in August last year.

Mr Chanchai, who served as an adviser to the government of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and reportedly remains close to Thaksin, is worth $2.9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

TCP said the $150-million investment in China would be made over three years with its new strategic partners, Guangzhou Yao Energy Co Ltd and Pusheng Food Sales Co Ltd. It has also created the TCP China Intellectual Property Protection Fund to further solidify the presence of its brands in the country.

Red Bull GmbH had worldwide revenue of about 6.07 billion euros ($6.6 billion) last year, according to its website. It sold 7.5 billion cans and containers of drinks, propelled by growth in emerging markets including Brazil, India and Africa.

Thai entrepreneur Chaleo Yoovidhya, who died in 2012, teamed up with Austrian marketing whiz Dietrich Mateschitz in the 1980s to form the company after Mateschitz discovered Chaleo’s Krating Daeng energy drink while looking to counteract jet lag on a business trip to Thailand.

Chaleo’s son Chalerm Yoovidhya, along with his family, is currently ranked second on the Thailand’s 50 Richest 2020 list by Forbes magazine, with a net worth estimated at $20.2 billion.

Most members of the family keep a low public profile, especially in light of the controversy surrounding Mr Chalerm’s son Vorayuth Yoovidhya.

Mr Vorayuth, aka “Boss”, has been on the run from charges related to the hit-and-run death of a police officer in Bangkok in 2012.

It took five years for prosecutors to charge him with reckless driving causing death and failing to help a crash victim. All other charges, including drunk driving, have since expired under the statute of limitations.

Mr Vorayuth was spotted by reporters in 2017 emerging from a house in London, and also at Formula One races. The brief burst of publicity renewed interest in his case but it soon faded.

The Office of the Attorney-General in late 2018 reportedly urged the Royal Thai Police to supply information needed to secure the extradition of Mr Vorayuth, but there has been no follow-up since then.

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