It’s not often that one person kicks off a whole new beverage category. But Dietrich Mateschitz used his marketing smarts to conceive of Red Bull and then, through that drink’s success, jump start the energy drink universe in the western world.
Mateschitz, who built a multi-billion dollar fortune in the process, has died at age 78. The Red Bull company announced his death on its website, saying that the sadness about his passing “will make way for gratitude –gratitude for what he changed, moved, encouraged and made possible for so many individual people.” It did not disclose the cause of death.
Mateschitz, an Austrian citizen, discovered energy drinks while traveling to Asia as a marketing executive for German consumer products firm Blendax in the 1980s. In 1987 he formed Red Bull in partnership with Thai businessman Chaleo Yoovidhya, taking a 49% stake. The partners took the syrupy sweet Asian drinks– then typically sold in brown glass bottles– and livened it up with carbonation and an eye-catching blue and silver can, emblazoned with the drink’s name.
Red Bull, which became associated with adventure sports and fast living, sponsors competitions in surfing, Formula 1, off road racing, cycling and more. The Austria-based company had nearly $8 billion (7.8 billion Euros) in revenue in 2021 and sold 9.8 billion cans of Red Bull. Forbes pegs Mateschitz’s fortune at $20.2 billion; he was the 71st richest person in the world at the time of his death. Yoovidhya died in 2012; his son Chalerm, 71, runs the family business-with a 51% stake in Red Bull-and is worth an estimated $24.7 billion.
Mateschitz also owned Red Bull Racing, a Formula 1 racing team in England. In 2003, he bought an island in Fiji, Laucala, from the Forbes family for an undisclosed price and turned the 2,950-acre island into a super high end luxury resort–with just 25 villas on the island– that opened in 2009. Mateschitz liked to go once or twice a year for weeks at a time. In 2013, Forbes reported that Mateschitz spent $1.7 million on an extreme submarine for his guests at Laucala to use. Back in Austria, he also owned Hangar-7, an event center located on the grounds of Salzburg airport that houses his historic aircraft collection, the Flying Bulls.
Mateschitz lived in Salzburg, reportedly with a long-term girlfriend. He is survived by his only son, Mark.
This article was first published on forbes.com