He­li­copter ride for cof­fee - the rise of RB Leipzig

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

BER­LIN: RB Leipzig’s bil­lion­aire owner Di­et­rich Mates­chitz will hope to con­tinue be­ing his team’s lucky charm when they tackle cham­pi­ons Bay­ern Mu­nich, with top spot the win­ners’ prize.

The 72-year-old Aus­trian, the co­founder of en­ergy drinks gi­ant Red Bull, is not a man to let ob­sta­cles get in his way. In 2012, when he was at­tempt­ing to re­cruit Ralf Rang­nick, Leipzig’s cur­rent di­rec­tor of sport, dur­ing a tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion, Mates­chitz sud­denly asked. “Do you have a he­li­copter land­ing pad?” Rang­nick, in re­count­ing the tale, replied that it was not some­thing he had given con­sid­er­a­tion to when plan­ning his gar­den. Nev­er­the­less, Mates­chitz landed his pri­vate he­li­copter a few hours later at a sports field ad­ja­cent to Rang­nick’s house to con­tinue the dis­cus­sion. Over the course of the next few hours-and count­less cups of cof­fee Rang­nick ex­plained what he would do if he was in charge of RB Leipzig, who were down in Germany’s fourth divi­sion at the time. As he was later to do, Rang­nick out­lined how he would get rid of any play­ers the wrong side of 30 and sign ea­ger, young tal­ent to nur­ture.

By the time the cof­fee went cold, he had the job and Mates­chitz flew home. Four pro­mo­tions in the seven years since they were founded in 2009 saw RB Leipzig join Germany’s top flight this sea­son and got off to a fly­ing start with a record 13-match un­beaten run. The team has never lost when Mates­chitz was in the sta­dium. He made a rare ap­pear­ance for Satur­day’s im­pres­sive 2-0 win at home to Hertha Ber­lin and will also be at the Al­lianz Arena on Wednesday, where his team will hope to make it five wins from five with Mates­chitz in at­ten­dance. “We like see­ing him in the sta­dium-he’s a good omen for us,” said Leipzig goal­keeper Peter Gu­lacsi. With 15 league matches played, they are neck-and-neck on 36 points with Bay­ern.

In 2014, when RB had just won pro­mo­tion to the sec­ond divi­sion, Mates­chitz pre­dicted they would soon be in the top flight-now, the Cham­pi­ons League is beck­on­ing. “Doubts do not be­long to my char­ac­ter traits,” he said, with Leipzig prov­ing that on the pitch. Es­ti­mates to his wealth are some­where around $9-12 bil­lion (8.7-11.5 bil­lion eu­ros). He was born in the Aus­trian town of Sankt Marein im Muerz­tal and later worked for a cof­fee-pro­duc­ing com­pany, where he came across “Krat­ing Daeng” (Thai for ‘Red Bull’) on a trip to Asia.

To­gether with the Thai fam­ily Yoovid­hya, who first pro­duced the drink, Mates­chitz suc­cess­fully brought Red Bull to Europe. In 2015, their profit was 501 mil­lion eu­ros, which is shared be­tween the Yoovid­hya fam­ily (51 per­cent) and the 72-year-old Mates­chitz (49 per­cent).

Red Bull no longer just sell cans of the en­ergy drink and are a ma­jor brand in the sports world, spon­sor­ing 600 ath­letes across a va­ri­ety of dis­ci­plines.

Their port­fo­lio in­cludes a For­mula One team, suc­cess­ful pro­fes­sional foot­ball clubs in the United States, Aus­tria and Germany, as well as ice hockey teams in Salzburg and Mu­nich.

But Mates­chitz clearly has plans for RB Leipzig, and that in­cludes Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball. “If we didn’t want that at some point, then we’d be bet­ter off hang­ing up our boots,” he said. Lit­tle is known about his pri­vate life and he rarely speaks to the me­dia.

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