Dietrich Mateschitz, co-founder of the Red Bull energy drink company and owner of the brand’s Formula One racing team, has died at the age of 78.
The Austrian entrepreneur turned the caffeinated canned drink into one of the world’s best-known brands, with its “Red Bull gives you wings” slogan and marketing campaigns that revolved around extreme sports.
Mateschitz had a net worth of roughly $20bn, according to Forbes. He and Thai businessman Chaleo Yoovidhya founded Red Bull in 1984, sold their first energy drinks in Austria three years later, and expanded into the US in 1997. Yoovidhya died in 2012.
More than 9.8bn cans of Red Bull were sold globally last year, up by around 24 per cent on the prior year, according to the company’s website. Group revenues increased by a similar percentage to €7.8bn. It employed over 13,600 people at the end of last year.
The inspiration for the energy drink came to Mateschitz during his travels in Thailand as a marketing director for a toothpaste maker now owned by Procter & Gamble.
The Red Bull billionaire also built up a vast sports empire that ranged from Formula 1 racing teams to football clubs. The Red Bull network of football clubs includes Austria-based Red Bull Salzburg, Germany-based RB Leipzig, and the New York Red Bulls.
Mateschitz got into the Formula 1 car racing series in the 1990s, bought the Jaguar racing team in 2004 and entered the following season under the Red Bull name. With Sebastian Vettel at the wheel, Red Bull Racing won both F1 championships — for drivers and constructors — four years running from 2010-13.
However, Red Bull Racing struggled to match Mercedes and British racing driver Lewis Hamilton, a combination that dominated the championships from 2014.
Last year, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen claimed the driver’s title from Hamilton in controversial circumstances at the season finale in Abu Dhabi. The Dutchman has already defended that title and Red Bull is set to seize the constructor’s championship from Mercedes as soon as Sunday’s US Grand Prix in Austin.
Mateschitz’s death emerged on Saturday during the F1 race weekend.
“It’s very, very sad. What a great man,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner on Sky Sports. “What he achieved and what he’s done for so many people around the world across different sports is second to none.”
Fellow Austrian Toto Wolff, the team principal at Mercedes, described Mateschitz as one of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs.
“He created a market that didn’t exist with energy drinks out of Salzburg and made one of the best brands in the world. There’s no one like him.”