Red Bull Formula One owner Dietrich Mateschitz dies at 78

Red Bull Formula One owner Dietrich Mateschitz dies at 78

AUSTIN, Texas — Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz was the co-founder and founder of energy drink company Red Bull as well as the owner and founder of the Red Bull Formula One racing teams. He was 78.

Officials with Red Bull Racing Team at the United States Grand Prix, Austin, Texas, announced Mateschitz’s death Saturday. Mateschitz’s cause of death and whereabouts were not immediately known.

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

“The thoughts of all the FIA family are with his loved ones at this time and he will be greatly missed.”

Mateschitz gained fame as the public face of Red Bull, an Austrian-Thai conglomerate that says it sold nearly 10 billion cans of its caffeine and taurine-based drink in 172 countries worldwide last year.

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

With the growing success of Red Bull, he significantly expanded his investments in sports, specifically motorsports and extreme sports, and Red Bull now operates football clubs, ice hockey teams and F1 racing teams. Red Bull has also signed contracts with hundreds of athletes across a variety of sports, and has a deep driver training program to help racers reach the highest levels. “It’s been hard for everyone — what it has meant for Red Bull and of course the sport and especially for me,” said Max Verstappen who won his second consecutive F1 title just two weeks ago.

Verstappen on Sunday at Circuit of the Americas will try to tie Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel with an F1-record 13 victories in a season, and he’ll also attempt to clinch the constructors championship for Red Bull.

” What he has done to me, my career, and in general, my life, it is really tough, it is a really difficult day,” Verstappen stated. “There’s still a race ahead and we’re going to try to make him proud tomorrow.”

Mateschitz and Thai investor Chaleo Yoovidhya founded the company in 1984 after Mateschitz recognized the potential in marketing Krating Daeng – another energy drink created by Chaleo – for a western audience. 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’ leadership, Red Bull quickly grew its market share in Europe and the United States. This was due to marketing campaigns that promoted the drink’s stimulant properties and extensive sponsorship deals in motorsports and extreme sports.

The Red Bull Racing Team has had success in Formula 1. They won the constructors’ title in 2010, 2012 , while Vettel won four drivers championships while signed to 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 started with the junior Toro Rosso team at age 17 in 2015. The Dutchman is the dominant driver in F1 today.

“We all owe him so much for the opportunities and the vision he had. His strength of character and willingness to chase our dreams and follow our dreams have made us all so grateful. Christian Horner, Red Bull’s team principal, said that he proved that you can make an impact in F1, and that he did so here. Horner said that we are incredibly grateful to him for everything he has done and all the support he has given us over the years. He owes so many drivers, team members, and people in this pit lane so much. He was extremely proud of the team, and was proud of all we’ve achieved. He’s been a passionate supporter of everything we do .”

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

It repeated the move in Germany, where it bought fifth-tier club SSV Markranstadt in 2009, rebranded it as RasenBallsport Leipzig, and financed its steady progress through the league system till it was promoted to the Bundesliga in 2016. German league regulations prohibited the company from naming Red Bull Leipzig. The club’s name, RasenBallsport Leipzig, is actually “grass ball sport Leipzig”.

Mateschitz also made headlines for his populist views. He previously criticized German chancellor Angela Merkel for her handling of the refugee crisis over 2015-16. Red Bull Media House GmbH owns the Austrian Servus TV station. It is known for promoting right-wing provocative views.

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

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Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer and AP’s Brian Church in London contributed to this report.

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