How Red Bull turned Thai 'hangover cure' into multi-billion pound firm

How Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz turned Thai duck farmer’s ‘hangover cure’ into multi-billion pound business and sports empire after discovering energy drink helped with his jet leg on a business trips

  • Billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz, who co-founded energy drinks company Red Bull, has died at 78 years old
  • The Austrian businessman originally discovered the drink while on a business trip in Thailand in the 1980s
  • Mr Mateschitz found that the caffeinated energy drink, marketed as a hangover cure, helped with his jet lag
  • Together with its inventor, Chaleo Yoovidhya, he promoted the drink worldwide under the name Red Bull
  • Mr Mateschitz would later use the company and his billions to invest in Formula 1, football and extreme sports 

Dietrich Mateschitz, who co-founded the Red Bull energy drink company and a Formula 1 team bearing the same name, has died at the age of 78.

The Austrian, who became known later in his life for his love of motorsports, extreme sports and football, passed away this week after a battle with illness, the company announced yesterday.

The entrepreneur, who gained a net wealth of more than £17billion through his firm, build his fortune while being introduced to the drink while on a business trip to Thailand in the 1980s.

Mr Mateschitz, who had been working as a marketing executive for German firm Blendax, was impressed with a drink that helped him with his jet lag called Krating Daeng.

It had been developed a decade before by duck farmer turned pharmacist Chaleo Yoovidhya, and Mr Mateschitz was reportedly so impressed with it he struck a deal to promote it abroad. 

The company carbonated it and with its promise that it would ‘give you wings’, it proved hugely successful after its launch as Red Bull in 1987 and kick started the energy drinks market, Forbes reports.

Mr Mateschitz took a 49 per cent stake in the company, and the partnership made both men and their families extremely wealthy – in 2020 Mr Yoovidhya’s family received £184million in dividends, while the Austrian received £299million.

As his extraordinary wealth grew over the years Mr Mateschitz used his company to invest in extreme sports, Formula 1 and to buy several football teams.

Mr Mateschitz combined the company with his passion for motorsport and other sports as it became the sponsor of many different teams across the world.

Dietrich Mateschitz, who became a multi-billionaire after co-founding energy drinks company Red Bull, has died at the age of 78

Mr Mateschitz is perhaps best known for founding Formula 1 team Red Bull Racing, which has won multiple world championships. Pictured: The businessman (centre) with Red Bull driver Max Verstappen (far right) at the Austrian Grand Prix in 2018

Mr Mateschitz also owned Scuderia Toro Rosso, which was later rebranded AlphaTauri. Picture: Mr Mateschitz (centre) with Toro Rosso driver and future world champion Sebastian Vettel (right) and team principal Franz Tost (left) in 2008

Since being launched in 1987 Red Bull has become the world’s most popular energy drink, holding a 38 per cent market share in 2019

The entrepreneur was impressed with a drink invented by pharmacist Chaleo Yoovidhya (pictured), and stuck a deal to market it outside Thailand

It first became associated with the world of extreme sports, sponsoring competitions such as cliff diving, windsurfing, hand gliding, skateboarding, surfing and snowboarding, all of which featured prominently in its advertising.

His company bought Jaguar’s Formula One racing team and converted it into Red Bull Racing in November 2004, it has gone on to become one of the strongest teams on the grid.

So much so, Max Verstappen just won the Driver’s Championship for this season while driving the Red Bull car. This is the sixth time that Red Bull had won the title.

Red Bull has also won the Constructors Championship on four occasions since the team was formed.

The company also owns AlphaTauri, which was adapted from the Toro Rosso team in 2016.

Mr Mateschitz was a key member in Red Bull’s entrance into football, as it has multiple teams in its portfolio.

Bundesliga side RB Leipzig, Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg, MLS franchise the New York Red Bulls and Brazilian team Red Bull Bragantino are the biggest clubs to represent the drinks company.

He also used his personal wealth to buy the island of Laucala in Fiji, stumping up £7million to buy it from the Forbes family in 2003, turning it into a luxury resort.

Forbes reported in 2013 that he had spent £1.5million on submarine for people staying at the resort, while he also owned an event centre in Salzburg where he housed his collection of historic aircraft.

Mr Mateschitz’s death was announced yesterday, with the company saying it would try to ‘continue his life’s work’.

In an email to employees, the company said: ‘We have to inform you that Dietrich Mateschitz passed away today.

‘In these moments, the over-riding feeling is one of sadness. But soon the sadness will make way for gratitude – gratitude for what he changed, moved, encouraged and made possible for so many individual people. We will remain connected to him respectfully and lovingly.

‘It is the task and responsibility of all of us to continue his life’s work in his spirit.

‘Thank you for supporting us.

‘Thank you also for respecting his wish to express your grief in silence and restraint.’

At the time of his death Mr Mateschitz still owned 49 per cent of the company, with his stake passing onto his estate. He is survived by his only son, Mark Gerhardter.

News of Mateschitz’s passing reached the F1 paddock and the Red Bull staff as they were called into the hospitality area to be informed of what had happened 45 minutes before qualifying for the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.

Christian Horner said that Mateschitz made a difference to Formula One before he died. Pictured: The pair celebrate the win of Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing after the F1 Grand Prix of Austria in 2019

Red Bull Racing has become one of the best teams in F1 since being formed by Mateschitz. Pictured: Team owner Dietrich Mateschitz (C), team principal Christian Horner (L), team consultant Dr Helmut Marko (R) and Red Bull Racing Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey (2nd L) in 2010

Principal of the Red Bull Racing Christian Horner paid tribute to Mateschitz, as he told Sky Sports: ‘It’s very, very sad. What a great man – he’s few of a kind, what he achieved and what he’s done for so many people around the world and across different sports is second to none.

‘So many of us have to be so grateful to him for the opportunities he has provided, the vision that he had, the strength of character and never being afraid to follow and chase his dreams.

‘That’s what he did here in Formula 1, proving that you can make a difference.

‘We’re just incredibly grateful for him, everything he has done and everything he has supported us with over the years. So many drivers, so many team members, so many people in this pit lane know him so much.

‘As he would have wanted, we now head into qualifying exactly how he would have wanted it to be.

‘He was passionate about Formula 1, passionate about the team, and our determination is to go and do our best for him today and in the race tomorrow.’

The official Formula 1 account also paid tribute to the Austrian as it posted on Twitter: ‘We are saddened to hear of the death of Dietrich Mateschitz The co-founder of Red Bull made an unforgettable contribution to F1, and leaves a lasting legacy.’

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