Red Bull clubs like Leipzig face uncertain future after Dietrich Mateschitz’s death

It was a great week for RB Leipzig on the field. A 3-2 win over Champions League holders Real Madrid on Tuesday put them through to the last 16.

Four days later, Marco Rose’s men beat Bayern Munich 2-0 to extend their unbeaten run to nine games and move into fourth place. On top of all that, Timo Werner even scored for misquoting the famous English fans’ chant. twice. “He’s fast, he’s dangerous and he’s a great personality that’s important in the dressing room,” Rose said of the 26-year-old after his second goal in as many games.

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Werner’s return to Saxony failed to pay huge dividends in the first two months of the season. But now As he heads to Chelsea in 2020, there are signs that he is regaining the confidence and agility that seemed to have been lost somewhere down the drain. The German striker is one of the reasons for Leipzig’s departure from Funk again. After winning their first trophy, the DFB-Pokal, in May this year, they did not feel good about themselves and the team’s chances.

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But things are looking up again for the team, with the death of Red Bull founder Dietrich Matschitz on October 22 raising unsettling questions about the club’s future. Dozens and dozens of newspaper articles in his native Austria and Germany tried to find out what the 78-year-old’s passing would mean for the soft drinks giant (annual sales 8 billion euros) and the list of sports teams it owns. The answer is always the same: no one knows.

In the corridors of RB Leipzig club HQ across the Elster Canal from the Red Bull Arena, there is a sense of business as usual. Staff have been told things will continue as they are, with Red Bull sponsoring the shirt and the stadium sponsoring rights at a cost of €40m (£34.4m) a year. In the past, Matschitz’s corporation has provided loans of around 200 million euros, mostly to help Leipzig buy players.

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Debt-equity swaps – criticized as an unfair financial trick by clubs like Eintracht Frankfurt without bankrolling their artificial sweet-father – Red Bull in 2015 2019 sees it write down 100 million euros.

Red bull

A minute’s applause before RB Leipzig’s match against Real Madrid (Photo: Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

The extra payment reduced the club’s debt to the drinks company to €56 million. Champions League qualification in 5 of their 6 years in the top flight and a player sales model have put them on a strong financial footing, with a turnover of €370m in 2020-21, more than Borussia Dortmund (€340m).

However, the club is heavily wrapped up in the Red Bull branding – to say nothing of the RB Football team’s coordination, to say nothing of the farm of talented players like Benjamin Cesko. The money from Red Bull’s headquarters in Fuschl, near Salzburg, seems to have dried up.

Much will depend on who leads it next. In recent years, Mateschitz’s 29-year-old son Mark has been groomed as a successor, but he needs the support of the Jovidia family, which owns 51 percent of the company. In the year Matschitz, who co-founded the company with Thai entrepreneur Chalio Yovidhya in the mid-1980s after Hong Kong’s energy boom collapsed, was allowed to run the company more or less as he pleased, but only held a minority stake of 49 percent. . There is a possibility that Yuvidha’s family will be pushed to speak more. Do you share Dietrich Matschitz’s enthusiasm for Formula 1, football, skiing and other extreme sports? Or might they decide it’s as good a time as any to cash out and sell to a rival instead of betting that Mark Matschitz will fill his father’s shoes?

But even if Mark Matschitz ascends to the aluminum throne, there’s no guarantee the company’s focus won’t shift away from sports sponsorship. He never spoke about his plans and choices.

Red Bull spends 1.6 billion euros a year on marketing, of which 320 million euros goes directly to teams and individual athletes. Senior officials in Leipzig and elsewhere take solace in the fact that the soft drink is synonymous with sports. Since Coca-Cola chose Santa Claus nearly 100 years ago, why did it need to change one of its most successful marketing strategies?

It will take some time before we know for sure the future direction of the company. People working under the Red Bull banner can only hope that there will be no major changes, but in some ways this is impossible, because new lines of command will be released. Until he began suffering from pancreatic cancer 18 months ago, Austria’s richest man (worth €26 billion) was multi-talented and ambitious. Anyone who comes after Dietrich Matschitz may be more intrusive or, conversely, less driven. In a place like Leipzig, this difference will push Bayern Munich to compete for first place on the one hand and keep things going, as Volkswagen does at Club Volksberg, on the other.

Matschitz’s death also affects the deep-rooted hatred of RB Leipzig in German football. Many supporters of traditional clubs disliked the club’s artificiality and the 50+1 rule of membership control. (Leipzig restricts membership to an actively selected group of employees). They also really hated the man behind the can.

A branding genius, Mateschitz recognizes that his personal views — unapologetically nativist, populist, reactionary — are in the minority for a young, global lifestyle and sports company. Therefore, he does not speak much in public. But his media companies have given platforms to people with questionable politics as well as hobbyist epidemiologists with degrees from 4chan University, and at one point he threatened to bring an investigative journalist to his knees.

When workers at his Servus TV station wanted to form a union, he told them that he would prefer to shut down the channel. For those who hate investor-run clubs on principle, it’s a little harder to hate a faceless corporation than a right-wing septuagenarian billionaire from provincial Austria.

Assuming Red Bull remains involved, Mattschitz’s passing should at least detoxify the RB brand in German football.

But the extent to which the outlook softens on them will be as uncertain as their sporting outlook in the medium term. With just how far Leipzig have come since Matschitz founded the club in 2009, it’s suddenly clear what the next 13 years could look like.

(Top photo: Jerry Andre ATPImages/Getty Images)


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