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Vienna (AFP) – Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz, who died aged 78 on Saturday, built a sporting and media empire around his energy drink Red Bull, securing his global fame and far-reaching legacy.
Mateschitz achieved enormous wealth by taking a drink already popular in Asia and adapting it to Western tastes.
He was named the richest person in the Alpine EU members by Forbes in 2022 with an estimated net worth of $27.4 billion.
From cans to riches
Born in 1944 in the southern province of Styria into a family of teachers, “Didi” studied economics in Vienna.
After graduation, he started as a detergent salesman for Unilever, but soon became successful in business and later became the marketing director of the German cosmetics company Blendax.
His legacy – the Red Bull energy drink – was born during one of his many business trips when, in a luxury hotel bar in Hong Kong, he was served a sugary drink common in Asia.
Instantly fond of – and with the drink that would have helped him overcome his jet lag – he decided to team up with Thai businessman Chaleo Yoovidhya, developer of the drink.
The two men founded Red Bull in 1984. Based in Fuschl-am-See in a verdant alpine valley, the brand has slowly but surely conquered Western taste buds.
Today, Red Bull employs more than 13,000 people in 172 countries and sells almost 10 billion cans a year, generating a turnover of around 8 billion euros.
As a marketing prodigy, Mateschitz was obsessed with his brand image, investing heavily in it and seeking to energize it by sponsoring extreme sports, the engine of his commercial success.
Red Bull has left no opportunity untapped: in addition to its forays into music and aviation, the company sponsors athletes, including Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner, and has gradually entered the world of mainstream sports.
In addition to its involvement in Formula 1, Red Bull bought in 2005 the football club of the Austrian city of Salzburg then that of Leipzig in Germany, which became one of the flagship clubs of the Bundesliga thanks to the company’s investment. .
In a bid to create the event, but control the message, Mateschitz also founded Media House in Austria in 2007, providing a variety of digital entertainment and thousands of hours of footage to interested broadcasters.
He used his wealth to buy the paradise island of Laucala in Fiji as well as several other properties in his native Austria.
In the wings
For all of its public events, Red Bull itself has blocked the review.
In 2021, Austrian magazine Dossier published an investigation into Red Bull’s lobbying which aimed to mitigate criticism that energy drinks, when consumed in excess, can be harmful to health.
Very little is also known about Mateschitz’s private life.
Known for dressing casually – preferably in jeans and sunglasses – he almost never gave interviews to reporters and managed to keep a low profile throughout his life.
In a rare interview with the Austrian daily Kleine Zeitung in 2017, the billionaire criticized the lack of control over migration in Europe, prompting a backlash from supporters of open borders.
Its media outlets, notably its Servus TV, have also been criticized for biased reporting, including for trivializing the Covid-19 pandemic.
He never married. His son, Mark Mateschitz, was born in 1993.
© 2022 AFP