Dietrich Mateschitz, the owner and co-founder of Red Bull, has died, the company announced Saturday. He was 78. He is pictured in a photo provided by Red Bull. Photo courtesy of GEPA pictures/Red Bull Content Pool
Oct. 22 (UPI) -- Dietrich Mateschitz, the owner and co-founder of Red Bull, has died, the company announced Saturday. He was 78.
Red Bull shared an email that was sent to employees at the company, though his cause of death and other details were not revealed.
"We have to inform you that Dietrich Mateschitz passed away today," Red Bull's email to employees reads.
"In these moments, the overriding 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."
Mateschitz, of Austria, co-founded the energy drink company with Thai businessman Chaleo Yoovidhya in 1987 and was listed #51 on Forbes' list of billionaires at the time of his death. The energy drink launched in the U.S. market in 1997.
Before starting Red Bull, Mateschitz had worked as a marketing executive for the German consumer products company Blendax.
Mateschitz and Yoovidhya, who died in 2012, aggressively marketed Red Bull through commercial sponsorships of extreme sports such as cliff-diving, BMX, skiing, mountain biking and skateboarding.
Red Bull held its first event, the Red Bull Dolomitenmann, in 1988. The extreme sports relay includes four tests including running up a mountain, paragliding, canoeing and cycling. The next year, Austrian Formula 1 legend Gerhard Berger became the company's first sponsored athlete.
The company made its debut as a Formula 1 sponsor in 1995 and has since bought two teams, the Jaguar F1 team in 2004 and the Minardi team in 2005.
Red Bull teams have since won four constructors' championships in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 and six drivers' titles. The company operates a driver academy that trains Formula 1 racers.
Mohammed Ben Sulayem, president of motor sports governing body FIA, called Mateschitz "a towering figure in motor sport" in a statement.
"He was a towering figure in motor sport and with Red Bull, not only established two hugely successful Formula 1 teams, but also supported motor sport of every kind and helped the careers of countless young drivers through Red Bull's junior programs," Ben Sulayem said.
"The thoughts of all the FIA are with his loved ones at this time and he will be greatly missed."
Red Bull under Mateschitz has also long been invested in flying sports, holding its first Flugtag airshow in Vienna in 1992. The company's Flying Bulls fleet debuted in 1999.
The company also operates soccer teams in Austria, Germany, Brazil and the United States and maintains contracts with athletes in various sports.
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