Dietrich Mateschitz, the Austrian billionaire founder and owner of Red Bull, has died aged 78 after a serious illness with cancer.

Considered to be the richest man in Austria, the entrepreneur built a global empire around the energy drink.

Mr Mateschitz’s fortune is estimated at around €25bn (£21.8bn), putting him 51st on Forbes’ list of the world’s richest people.

Formula 1 praised his “unforgettable contribution” to the sport and said he leaves behind a “lasting legacy”.

Little is known about Mr Mateschitz’s private life – he was publicity shy and rarely gave interviews.

He lived in Salzburg with his long-term girlfriend and once said years ago that he drank 10 to 12 cans of Red Bull a day.

After graduating from the University of World Trade in Vienna, he worked as a marketing specialist for various companies in the 1970s.

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On his business trips to Asia, he got to know the market of energy and stimulant drinks, which at the time were still completely unknown in Europe and the US.

In 1984, together with Thai entrepreneurs, he founded Red Bull GmbH, in which he held a 49% stake.

After modifying the recipe of a Thai energy drink and developing a marketing concept, Red Bull was introduced to the market in 1987.

The bubbly, carbonated, sweet drink, whose taste is described as similar to that of gummy bears, rose to become the global market leader after a difficult market entry.

The group achieved a turnover of €7.8bn (£6.8bn) in 2021 and sold 9.8 billion Red Bull cans worldwide.

Mateschitz was the founder and owner of Red Bull Racing, a Formula 1 racing team based in Milton Keynes.

News of his death emerged just before qualifying at the United States Grand Prix, and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner told Sky Sports News they were determined to “do our best for him” during this weekend’s races.

He added: “It is very, very sad. What a great man. We are just incredibly grateful for him and everything he has done, everything he has supported us with over the years and so many drivers, so many team members, so many people in this pitlane owe him so much.

“It is important that we celebrate and recognise the contribution that he has made. Quite a remarkable man, an inspiration, and one that we owe a huge amount.”