Founder of Red Bull International
B orn May 20, 1944, in St. Marein im Mürtzal, Styria, Austria; son of two teachers; children: one son. Education: Earned degree in marketing from the University of Commerce, Vienna, Austria, c. 1972.
Addresses: Office—Red Bull North America, Inc., 1740 Stewart St., Santa Monica, CA 90404.
W orked as a tour guide and skiing instructor in Austria, late 1960s; joined Unilever as a marketing associate, c. 1972; also worked for Jacobs Coffee; director of international marketing for Blendax, 1979-84; founded Red Bull International, 1984.
D ietrich Mateschitz founded the company that makes and sells the immensely popular energy drink Red Bull. An Austrian marketing whiz and extreme-sports enthusiast, Mateschitz has managed to meld his love of daredevil endeavor with his company’s publicity/promotional machine by sponsoring parachute-skiing events and other sporting challenges, nearly all of which seem to fit neatly with the company’s slogan: “Red Bull Gives You Wings.” “The most important thing in life is to find fulfillment,” he enthused in an interview with Franz Lidz for Sports Illustrated. “There are many possible paths that lead to dead ends or put you in the wrong direction. You keep moving for stability and happiness. For me Red Bull was the perfect path.” Fittingly, Mateschitz was born a Taurus, or sign of the bull, on May 20, 1944, in St. Marein im Mürtzal, a town in the province of Styria, Austria. Both of his parents were schoolteachers, but separated when he was still quite young. He was an avid athlete as a child, drawn first to soccer and later to downhill skiing, which offered his first job opportunity when he became an instructor during his college years. Like many Europeans of the postwar generation who benefited from a near-absence of university tuition fees, Mateschitz took a leisurely path through higher education, stretching out his semesters over a full decade before he earned his degree in marketing from Vienna’s University of Commerce. “I changed universities a lot of times,” he said by way of explanation in an interview with Sholto Byrnes for London’s Independent. “You know, it’s a good time, so you shouldn’t shorten it unnecessarily.” Only in his last years did he begin accelerating his coursework, pointing out to Byrnes that “when you are a student and you are a tour guide in the summer and a skiing instructor [in winter], this is OK when you are 23, 24, 25. But a student ski instructor at 28, 30? It’s not so funny any more.”
After graduating from college in the early 1970s, Mateschitz worked for Unilever, the British-Dutch soap maker and personal-products giant before moving over to a well-known German coffee com- pany for a similar marketing job. In 1979, he joined Blendax—another German company that sold toothpaste and shampoo at the time—as its director of international marketing. He began traveling to Asia regularly for his job, and discovered he could alleviate jet lag after the long flights by quaffing the energy drinks that were popular in Southeast Asia and Japan at the time. One of his business contacts in Bangkok was a Thai entrepreneur named Chaleo Yoovidhya, whose family business included a division that made one of these tonic drinks. In 1984, Mateschitz left Blendax and partnered with Yoov-idhya to perfect and market what became Red Bull, whose original incarnation was the beverage Krat-ing Daeng (Thai for red water buffalo). The ingredients were essentially the same in both the original and international-bestselling version—citrus and herb flavorings mixed with lots of sugar, plus tau-rine, an amino acid, and doses of caffeine and glu-curonolactone, a carbohydrate—except the new Red Bull in a distinctive silver and blue aluminum can would be carbonated.
Red Bull took three years to reach Austrian consumers, with Mateschitz needing first to win the approval of both government regulators as well as skeptics who asserted that he and Yoovidhya were about to see their half-million-dollar investment disappear down the drain. The first focus-group tests on Red Bull were not a good harbinger of success, Mateschitz recalled in an interview with Kerry A. Dolan in Forbes. “People didn’t believe the taste, the logo, the brand name. I’d never before experienced such a disaster.” When the product did arrive in stores, however, it began selling well enough, and that success was repeated in Hungary and then Britain. A 1994 launch in Germany had mixed results: Red Bull sold out so quickly that Mateschitz’s production line could not meet the huge demand when the factory ran out of aluminum for the cans.
Red Bull was a novelty when it began appearing in U.S. stores in 1997, but Mateschitz’s clever marketing strategy positioning it as a renegade product with no big corporate ties helped it catch on with teens and young adults. It also was hyped as an ideal mixer for alcoholic drinks, especially vodka, and developed a reputation for moderating the negative effects of a night of drinking; rumors occasionally surfaced that Red Bull contained a secret ingredient, which the company did little to dispel. A decade later, Red Bull no longer dominated the beverage niche sector it had single-handedly developed, after new competition from Monster, Crunk, and Diesel began cutting into its once-mighty 75 percent share of the energy-drink market.
Early on in his company’s history, Mateschitz strove to make Red Bull a presence in the more riskier forms of sports entertainment. One of his first coups came just when Red Bull arrived on the Austrian market, when he persuaded a well-known Formula One auto racing star, Gerhard Berger, to hold one when the television cameras were rolling. Since then, Mateschitz has sponsored numerous extreme-sports athletes and events, such as the Red Bull Air Race World Series, an international aerobatics competition, and the Red Bull Flugtag, an annual contest for homemade flying machines. He also owns a pair of European Grand Prix racing teams, sponsors and owns a NASCAR team, and acquired the New York MetroStars, a Major League Soccer team, in 2006, which he promptly renamed the New York Red Bulls.
Mateschitz has never married, but is the father of a teenaged son from a past relationship. Intensely private, he rarely sits for interviews and often bristles at questions regarding his personal life. When an Austrian gossip magazine proved too interested in his lifestyle, the publicity-shy mogul managed to purchase the publication, which promptly halted coverage of the new boss. At his company headquarters in Fuschl, near Salzburg, he runs an organization infused with a similarly iconoclastic spirit. “Instead of having presidents, directors and chairmen, we had a defensive line, an offensive line, coaches and quarterbacks,” he explained to Byrnes in the Independent interview. “All this sounds better than directors and a board. In our company, we have almost no control system because we believe in self-motivation and responsibility. Of course, you have to be able to handle this freedom.”
Beverage World, June 15, 2006, p. 14.
Brandweek, May 28, 2001, p. 21.
Economist, May 11, 2002.
Forbes, March 28, 2005, p. 126.
Independent (London, England), January 6, 2005, p. 2.
New York Times, October 29, 2006.
Sports Illustrated, August 4, 2003, p. A8.