Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz has died at the age of 78

Austin, Texas –

The Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz, co-founder of the energy drink company Red Bull and founder and owner of the Formula 1 racing team Red Bull, is dead. He was 78.

Officials from the Red Bull racing team at the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, announced the death of Mateschitz on Saturday. There was no immediate word as to where he died, or a cause of death.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the motorsport governing body FIA, said that Mateschitz was “an outstanding personality in motorsport”.

“The thoughts of the entire FIA ​​family 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 says it sold nearly 10 billion cans of its caffeine- and taurine-based beverage in 172 countries worldwide last year.

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

With Red Bull’s growing success, he significantly increased his investments 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 across different sports and an extensive driver development program to bring racers to the highest level.

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

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

“What he’s done for me, my career so far and my life in general, it’s really tough, it’s a really tough day,” Verstappen said. “There is 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 saw the potential in marketing Krating Daeng – another energy drink created by Chaleo – to Western audiences. According to Red Bull, 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, then in the United States, aided by marketing campaigns promoting the drink’s claimed stimulant properties and extensive sponsorship deals in motorsports, soccer, extreme sports and the music industry.

The Red Bull Racing team has enjoyed success in Formula 1, winning the Constructors’ Championship in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, while German driver Vettel has won four consecutive Drivers’ Championships while under contract with the team.

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

“So many of us must be so grateful to him for the opportunities he offered and the vision he had, the strength of character and the fear to follow dreams and chase dreams. He’s done that here in Formula 1 and proved that. “You can make a difference,” Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told Sky Sports F1.

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

Red Bull operates football teams in the top leagues in Austria, Germany, Brazil and the United States. The company started with the purchase of Austrian club SV Austria Salzburg in 2005 and renaming it to the corporate colors under the name Red Bull Salzburg.

It repeated the move to Germany, where it bought fifth division side SSV Markranst├ñdt in 2009, renamed it RasenBallsport Leipzig and funded its steady rise through the league system until gaining promotion to the Bundesliga in 2016. German league regulations prevented the company from naming the Red Bull Leipzig team – its name in German, RasenBallsport, means ‘Rasenballsport Leipzig’, but the club only refers to itself as RB Leipzig.

Mateschitz also made headlines with his populist views. He previously criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her handling of the refugee crisis in 2015-16. The Austrian television channel Servus, which belongs to Red Bull Media House GmbH, is known for representing right-wing provocative views.

Mateschitz bought the Jaguar Racing team from the previous owner Ford at the end of 2004 and renamed it Red Bull for the 2005 season. Later that year he also bought Minardi and renamed it Toro Rosso to cleverly use as a feeder team for Red Bull.


Auto racing author Jenna Fryer and Associated Press sportswriter Jerome Pugmire contributed to this report.