VIENNA: Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz, a giant in the world of energy drinks and founder of the Formula One team and a sports empire, died on Saturday aged 78, the company said. Red Bull expressed both its “sadness” at the Austrian billionaire’s death and “gratitude for what he accomplished”. Mateschitz was named as Austria’s richest person by Forbes in 2022 with an estimated net worth of 27.4 billion euros ($27 billion). Besides its involvement in Formula One — the team’s Dutch driver Max Verstappen is the world champion for the second consecutive year — Red Bull bought the football club of the Austrian city of Salzburg in 2005, then Leipzig in Germany. The head of the Red Bull Formula One team, Christian Horner, described Mateschitz as a passionate supporter and the “backbone of all we do” in his tribute. “It is very, very sad,” said Horner, speaking at the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. “A great man, one of few of a kind, for what he achieved and he has done for many people around the world and across so many sports.” Horner told Sky Sports F1 that Mateschitz “proved you can make a difference. He was a passionate supporter and the backbone of all we do. A remarkable man and inspirational individual.” Mateschitz’s legacy, the Red Bull energy drink, was born during one of his many business trips as marketing director of a German cosmetics company when he was served a sweet beverage common in Asia in a luxury bar in Hong Kong. He was immediately fond of it and was impressed by the drink’s apparent ability to help him overcome his jet lag. He decided to partner up with the beverage’s developer Thai businessman Chaleo Yoovidhya and the two men founded Red Bull in 1984. Based in Fuschl-am-See, the brand slowly but surely won over Western taste buds and the brand developed globally thanks to clever marketing and the tie-ins with sport.