Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz, who co-founded Red Bull, the world’s most recognizable and best-selling energy drink, passed away at the age of 78 on Saturday. According to Reuters, he was fighting cancer.
Mateschitz was born in the town of Sankt Marein im Murztal in 1944. During a trip to Southeast Asia, he discovered that local caffeinated drink Krating Daeng, developed by Thai businessman Chaleo Yoovidhya, eased his jet lag. Mateschitz then co-founded Red Bull in 1984 in partnership with Yoovidhya and launched the global brand in 1987.
From the onset, Mateschitz advertised the drink through associations with extreme sports, such as surfing, winter sports, motorsports and mountain biking.
The company sponsored many events and athletes. It currently owns two Formula 1 racing teams, Oracle Red Bull Racing, and Scuderia AlphaTauri, previously known as Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said he was “deeply saddened” by the news of Mateschitz’s passing. “He was an incredible, visionary entrepreneur and a man who helped to transform our sport and created the Red Bull brand that is known all around the world,” he stated.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer described Mateschitz as “a great innovator” who was “extremely committed to social causes throughout his life.” The country’s president, Alexander Van der Bellen, said that the businessman had “shaped Austria’s corporate and sports landscape like few others,” adding that his life served as an inspiration for many.
In 2001, Mateschitz founded the annual Taurus World Stunt Awards, which honors stunt performers in movies. In 2012, the company executed the Red Bull Stratos project, during which Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner rose 39 kilometers (24 miles) above Earth on a capsule attached to a helium balloon and broke the sound barrier by freefalling and parachuting down to the New Mexico desert.