Dietrich Mateschitz, co-founder of the energy drink company Red Bull and owner of the brand’s Formula 1 racing team, has died aged 78.
The Austrian entrepreneur made the caffeinated canned drink one of the world’s best-known brands, with his slogan “Red Bull gives you wings” and marketing campaigns centered on extreme sports.
Mateschitz had a net worth of approximately $20 billion, 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 to the US in 1997. Yoovidhya died in 2012.
More than 9.8 billion cans of Red Bull were sold worldwide last year, according to the company’s website, an increase of about 24 percent from the previous year. Group turnover increased by a similar percentage to €7.8 billion. At the end of last year, more than 13,600 people were employed.
The inspiration for the energy drink came to Mateschitz during his travels in Thailand as the marketing director for a toothpaste maker now owned by Procter & Gamble.
The Red Bull billionaire also built a huge 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 entered the Formula 1 car racing series in the 1990s, bought the Jaguar racing team in 2004 and went into the following season under the name Red Bull. With Sebastian Vettel at the wheel, Red Bull Racing won both F1 championships – for drivers and constructors – four years in a row from 2010-13.
However, Red Bull Racing struggled to match Mercedes and British driver Lewis Hamilton, a combination that dominated the championships from 2014 onwards.
Last year, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen claimed Hamilton’s driver’s title in controversial circumstances at the season finale in Abu Dhabi. The Dutchman has already defended that title and Red Bull is poised to grab the Mercedes constructors’ championship once the US Grand Prix takes place in Austin on Sunday.
Mateschitz’s death came to light during the F1 race weekend on Saturday.
“It’s very, very sad. What a great man,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner on Sky Sports. “What he has achieved and what he has done for so many people around the world in different sports is unparalleled.”
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 from Salzburg and made one of the best brands in the world. There is no one like him.”