BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai energy drink brand Red Bull has sought to distance itself from a member of the business founder’s family who was involved in a hit-and-run case, as calls to boycott its products grow.
Vorayuth Yoovidhya, grandson of the late Chaleo Yoovidhya who created the Thai energy drink Krating Daeng, or Red Bull, was accused of crashing his black Ferrari into a policeman in 2012 and dragging his body for dozens of metres before fleeing the scene.
Police said on Friday his charges, which included speeding, hit-and-run and reckless driving causing death, were dropped in a case that has raised questions about crime and punishment for the well-connected.
TCP Group, which owns the Thai Red Bull brand, said it is run by Vorayuth’s uncle and not directly associated with Vorayuth, whose father has part ownership in the international Red Bull brand that Chaleo had co-founded with an Austrian partner.
“TCP Group would like to clarify that Mr. Vorayuth Yoovidhya has never assumed any role in the management and daily operations of TCP Group, was never a shareholder, nor has he held any executive position within TCP Group,” the company said in a statement on late Saturday.
“The company’s executives, shareholders and employees are not involved in the case across all aspects and the case is a personal affair of Mr. Vorayuth Yoovidhya.”
Many Thais were angered by the move to drop charges, which prompted allegations of impunity for the rich and sparked calls on social media to boycott Red Bull products.
TCP Group said it was “fully aware of the situation and truly understands consumer sentiments regarding the incident.”
Vorayuth’s grandfather was listed as the third-richest person in Thailand when he died in 2012 aged 88, with an estimated net worth of $5 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
The Red Bull GmbH brand has been promoted internationally through a Formula One racing team, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, and in the United States by soccer team the New York Red Bulls.
Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; editing by Kay Johnson and Sam Holmes