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Dietrich Mateschitz, Red Bull co-founder and F1 team owner, dies at 78

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AUSTIN, Texas – Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz, co-founder of energy drink company Red Bull and founder and owner of the Red Bull Formula One racing team, has died. He was 78.

Officials from the Red Bull racing team at the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas on Saturday said Mateschitz had died.

Mateschitz rose to fame as the public face of Red Bull, an Austro-Thai conglomerate that last year said it sold nearly 10 billion cans of its caffeine- and taurine-based beverage in 172 countries worldwide.

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

With the growing success of Red Bull, he significantly expanded his investments in sport. Red Bull now operates football clubs, ice hockey teams and F1 racing teams and has contracts with hundreds of athletes in various sports.

Mateschitz and Thai investor Chaleo Yoovidhya founded the company in 1984 after Mateschitz saw the potential in marketing Krating Daeng – another energy drink made by Chaleo – to a Western audience. Red Bull says Mateschitz worked on the formula for three years before launching the modified drink in 1987 under its new name in his native Austria.

Under Mateschitz’s leadership, Red Bull quickly increased its market share, first in Europe and then in the United States, aided by marketing campaigns promoting the drink’s purported stimulant properties and extensive sponsorship deals in motorsports, football, extreme sports and the music industry.

The Red Bull Racing team has achieved success in Formula 1, winning the Constructors’ Championship in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, while German driver Sebastian Vettel won four drivers’ championships in a row while signed to the team.

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

It repeated the move in Germany, where it bought fifth-tier club SSV Markranstädt in 2009, renamed it RasenBallsport Leipzig, and funded its steady progress through the league system until it was promoted to the Bundesliga in 2016. German competition rules prevented the team’s company from naming Red Bull Leipzig – the name in German, RasenBallsport, means “grass ball sport Leipzig”, but the club simply calls itself RB Leipzig.

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

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