Red Bull’s Dietrich Mateschitz, the Austrian billionaire who transformed F1, football and energy drinks, dies at 78

Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz, co-founder of energy drink company Red Bull and founder and owner of racing team Red Bull Formula One, has died. He was 78 years old.

Red Bull race team officials at the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, announced Mateschitz’s death on Saturday. There was no immediate word where he died, or a cause of death.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, president of motorsport governing body FIA, said Mateschitz was “a towering figure in motorsport”.

“The whole FIA ​​family’s thoughts are with his loved ones at this time and he will be greatly missed.”

Mateschitz rose to fame as the public face of Red Bull, an Austro-Thai conglomerate that claims to have sold nearly 10 billion cans of its caffeine and taurine drink in 172 countries around the world last year.

Mateschitz not only helped the energy drink become popular around the world, but also built a sports, media, real estate and food empire around the brand.

With Red Bull’s growing success, it has dramatically increased its investment in sports, particularly motorsports and extreme sports, and Red Bull now operates football clubs, ice hockey teams and F1 racing teams. . Red Bull also has contracts with hundreds of athletes in various sports and an extensive rider development program to bring riders to the highest level.

“It was bad news for everyone – what it meant for Red Bull, and of course for the sport, and especially for me,” said Max Verstappen, who won his second consecutive F1 title there. two weeks ago.

Verstappen on Sunday at the Circuit of the Americas will look to match Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel with an F1 record 13 wins in a season, and he will also be looking to clinch the constructors’ championship for Red Bull.

“What he’s done for me, my career so far and my life in general, it’s been really tough, it’s been a really tough day,” Verstappen said. “There is still one race left and we will try to make him proud tomorrow.”

Mateschitz and Thai investor Chaleo Yoovidhya founded the company in 1984 after Mateschitz recognized the potential to market Krating Daeng – another energy drink created by Chaleo – to Western audiences. Red Bull says Mateschitz worked on the formula for three years before the modified drink was launched under its new name in his native Austria in 1987.

Under Mateschitz’s leadership, Red Bull rapidly increased its market share, first in Europe and then in the United States, aided by marketing campaigns promoting the drink’s claimed stimulating properties and extensive sponsorship deals. in motorsports, football, extreme sports and the music industry.

The Red Bull Racing team enjoyed success in Formula 1, winning the constructors’ championship in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, while German driver Vettel won four drivers’ championships in a row while signing with the team .

Verstappen started out in Red Bull’s driver development program and became the youngest driver in F1 history to start a Grand Prix when he started with junior team Toro Rosso aged 17 in 2015. The Dutchman is now the most dominant driver in the sport.

“Many of us must be so grateful to him for the opportunities he gave us and the vision he had, the strength of character and never being afraid to follow dreams and pursue dreams. That’s what he’s done here in F1, proving you can make a difference,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner told Sky Sports F1.

“We’re incredibly grateful to him, everything he’s done, everything he’s supported us with over the years,” added Horner. “So many drivers, so many team members, so many people in that pit lane owe him so much. He was incredibly proud of the team, incredibly proud of everything we did and achieved, and he was a passionate supporter and the backbone of everything we do.

Red Bull operates football teams in top divisions in Austria, Germany, Brazil and the United States. The company started by buying Austrian club SV Austria Salzburg in 2005 and rebranding it in company colors as Red Bull Salzburg.

He repeated the move in Germany, where he bought fifth-tier club SSV Markranstädt in 2009, renamed it RasenBallsport Leipzig and funded its steady progression through the league system until it was promoted to the Bundesliga. in 2016. German league regulations prevented the company from naming the team Red Bull Leipzig – its German name, RasenBallsport, means “Leipzig turf ball sport” but the club simply refers to itself as RB Leipzig.

Mateschitz also made headlines for his populist views. He previously criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her handling of the refugee crisis in 2015-2016. Austrian TV channel Servus, owned by Red Bull Media House GmbH, is known for promoting provocative right-wing views.

Mateschitz bought the Jaguar Racing team from former owner Ford in late 2004 and renamed it Red Bull for the 2005 season. Later that year he also bought Minardi and renamed it Toro Rosso , shrewdly using it as a feeder team for Red Bull.

—Jenna Fryer, motor racing writer, and Jerome Pugmire, sports writer at Associated Press, contributed to this report.

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