Death of Dietrich Mateschitz, the Austrian founder of the Red Bull empire

Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz, founder of energy drink company Red Bull that later became a sports and media empire, has died at the age of 78.

“We inform you that Dietrich Mateschitz passed away today”writes the management of the company in an email sent, Saturday, October 22 evening, to the employees, being part of its « » sadness and “gratitude for what he has accomplished”. According to the Austrian agency APA, he died of cancer.

Born on May 20, 1944 in the eastern region of Styria into a family of teachers, this shy personality was considered in 2022 by the magazine Forbes as Austria’s first fortune, estimated at 27.4 billion euros. He owned the paradise island of Laucala in Fiji and numerous properties in Austria, where he cultivated discretion. Never married, always in jeans, graying hair, Dietrich Mateschitz will almost never granted an interview to journalists. We just know he had a son.

After studying economics, he became marketing director for a toothpaste manufacturer. During a business trip, he discovers a beverage that will change his life, at the bar of a luxury hotel in Hong Kong. He is served an energy drink, common in Asia. Impressed by the drink’s apparent ability to help him with his jet lag, Mr Mateschitz decided to join forces with Thai businessman Chaleo Yoovidhya, who developed the drink, to found ‘Red Bull’ – red bull in English – in 1984.

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From the can to extreme sports

He is 40 years old and it is the beginning of a formidable ascent. The brand will have its headquarters in a green valley of the Alps, in Fuschl-am-See, from which it will slowly but surely conquer the West. Today, Red Bull employs more than 13,000 people in 172 countries, with a turnover of around 8 billion euros, and sells nearly 10 billion cans a year.

Dietrich Mateschitz had an obsession: the image of his brand, enhanced through the sponsorship of extreme sports and the investment of considerable sums in marketing. From cliff diving to wingsuit (freefall in a winged suit), from surfing to aerobatics, to the paroxysm of freefall jumping from space during which the Austrian Felix Baumgartner crossed the wall of the his in 2012, no extraordinary feat seems to be possible without being marked with the two winged bulls.

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With growing success, Dietrich Mateschitz gradually penetrated the more closed world of mainstream sports. Red Bull thus organizes competitions (freestyle skiing world championships) and sponsors the stars of their discipline: Lindsey Vonn, Alexis Pinturault in skiing, the Slovenian Janja Garnbret, Olympic champion in climbing, Luc Alphand or Stéphane Peterhansel in rally-raid : no one ever parted with a Red Bull helmet or cap. Provided we see the mark.

Essential in Formula 1

Today, Red Bull is a key player in Formula 1: the German Sebastian Vettel won the world title four seasons in a row – from 2010 to 2013 – at the wheel of a car struck by the red bull, just like the Dutch Max Verstappen who has just won his second world title.

Christian Horner, boss of the Red Bull team, reacted immediately from Austin (Texas) where the United States Grand Prix is ​​held on Sunday. “It’s very, very sad, what a great man. It is one of a kind. What he has achieved and what he has done for so many people around the world is second to none”he told the press.

The official Formula 1 Twitter account was part of its “” sadness on Saturday evening after the announcement of the death of Dietrich Mateschitz. “The Red Bull co-founder has made an unforgettable contribution to F1 and leaves a lasting legacy”is it written.

Red Bull then ventured into football by buying in particular the club from the Austrian city of Salzburg in 2005. Then, the company offered the New York MetroStars franchise in 2006, renamed New York Red Bulls, where Thierry Henry evolved.

Each time, she gives her name to the team and to the stadium where it evolves. A strategy legally impossible to apply with Leipzig, his third club, based in Germany, bought in 2009 in 5e division. The board then decides to call his club RasenBallsport Leipzig (“lawn ball sport”), whose initials “RB” recall those of Red Bull.

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Control communication

Red Bull also accompanies the athletes themselves in all disciplines, from the biggest stars to the hopes on which it bets. Among them, the famous Brazilian footballer Neymar, whom Red Bull regularly stages through mini-series, with Séan Garnier for example, famous freestyler, another Red Bull athlete.

Create the event, but controlling the communication. The first, Mr. Mateschitz saw coming the evolution of the media landscape, which in a few years has become a world fragmented into a multitude of websites and channels in search of spectacular content. Athletes of “niche” sports, little practiced in the world, little followed, but very visual, are financed by Red Bull without them perhaps not being able to practice their discipline. In return, the firm is mounting a spectacular film project, where its logo will appear on all the images. In 2007, Mr. Mateschitz thus founded in Austria the “Media House”responsible for providing thousands of hours of footage to designated broadcasters, and it is also investing in mobile telephony.

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Behind the planetary success, difficult to know who was the founder of Red Bull. In a rare interview with the Austrian daily Kleine Zeitung in 2017, the billionaire criticized the lack of control of the migratory wave in Europe and hinted at conservative positions.

Part of his media empire, present in the Germanic world, has since been criticized for having taken a conspiratorial turn, particularly in the treatment of the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2021, the Austrian magazine Case a published investigation revealing the underside of this impenetrable company, whose sports marketing would hide the harmfulness of the drink.

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He also revealed the lobbying played by the Austrian diplomacy with States wishing to regulate the consumption of energy drinks, accused of being dangerous to health in the event of overconsumption.

The World with AFP

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