Red Bull has fired two top executives in the US who had lobbied for more diversity in the company and were blamed for the leak of a letter that criticized its ‘public silence’ on Black Lives Matter.
North America chief executive Stefan Kozak and North America president and chief marketing officer Amy Taylor were let go, the energy drink company said Tuesday.
While Red Bull employees in the US have been lobbying for the company to be more vocal about racism, Red Bull’s billionaire CEO Dietrich Mateschitz is a Donald Trump admirer who has spoken out against ‘political correctness’.
A leaked letter signed by more than 300 employees had criticized the company for ‘saying nothing’ amid the global anti-racism protests and ‘abandoning the communities we claim to support and foster in their time of greatest need’.
Sources told Business Insider that Red Bull HQ in Austria is thought to have fired Kozak and Taylor in ‘retaliation’ for the leaks, although no official reason was given for their departure.
Both Kozak and Taylor have pushed for more diversity and inclusion but Taylor was ‘met with opposition’ when she called for the company to take a more public stand on racism, The Wall Street Journal reports.
North America chief executive Stefan Kozak, left, and North America president and chief marketing officer Amy Taylor, right, were let go, the energy drink company said Tuesday
Red Bull’s billionaire CEO Dietrich Mateschitz (pictured watching one of his soccer teams on July 1) is a Donald Trump admirer who has spoken out against ‘political correctness’
A third executive, head of global culture marketing Florian Klaass, has also left after he allegedly approved a racist slide shown in a meeting.
The leaked slide, shown at a meeting in Detroit earlier this year, is said to have shown racist stereotypes from countries around the world.
Labels on the map allegedly said ‘they do our laundry’ on Mexico, ‘they make our stuff’ on China, ‘evil-doers’ on the Middle East with an arrow indicating ‘bombs go here’, and ‘zoo animals come from here’ on Africa.
Reports say that US employees had urged against the use of the slide but that Klaass and his team had gone ahead with it anyway.
The slide was shown to more than 100 attendees and was meant as a serious attempt to show how Red Bull is a global organization, insiders said.
Red Bull’s headquarters are in Austria where the energy drink was first sold in 1987, before it broke into the US market in the 1990s and became the dominant player by the mid-2000s.
The company’s global CEO is Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz, who has an estimated fortune of $26billion and owns a private island in Fiji.
In a 2017 interview, Mateschitz expressed sympathy with Donald Trump and said the new president ‘simply needs time’.
‘I don’t think he’s as much of an idiot as he’s made out to be,’ he told the newspaper Kleine Zeitung at the time.
‘When you speak to Americans you often hear that they’re essentially happy to have a new administration. There was plenty to question about the previous one,’ he said, referring to the Obama administration.
Raging at ‘political correctness’ and the ‘intellectual elite’, Mateschitz was also highly critical of Germany and Austria for opening their doors at the height of the 2015 refugee crisis.
Taking aim at those who encouraged refugees or used Angela Merkel’s slogan of ‘we’ll manage it’, he said that none of those people ‘made their guest rooms available for five migrants to live in’.
Mateschitz also unveiled plans to start a new platform called Closer To The Truth, which was compared to the right-wing news site Breitbart.
Some Red Bull employees told Business Insider that the company’s leadership saw the Black Lives Matter protests as an American issue that did not affect the global brand.
Others claim that the offensive slide at the Detroit presentation had been reported to HR but that no action had been taken.
Taylor and Kozak are said to have worked together over the last several years on efforts to increase diversity at Red Bull.
Taylor wanted the company to speak out about racism and was working on a project to increase black representation but the company leadership was ‘not interested’, sources claim.
The Red Bull F1 team did put a statement out on June 22 speaking of its ‘determination to tackle the challenges that we as a sport, but also society, are facing’, saying that racism ‘has no place in our modern world’.
The main Red Bull Instagram account posted a black square on June 2 in an online trend called Blackout Tuesday, which many celebrities used as a way of showing support for Black Lives Matter but which others criticised as drowning out discussion on the subject.
Red Bull has not publicly commented on why Taylor and Kozak have left the company. They said Klaass’ departure was part of downsizing
Red Bull has not publicly commented on why Taylor and Kozak have left the company. They said Klaass’ departure was part of downsizing, AdWeek reports.
The June 1 letter signed by more than 300 workers asked the company to ‘take meaningful action in the fight to end racial injustice’ in the wake of George Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police.
The company replied to the employees’ letter on June 26, writing: ‘We reject racism in every form, we always have, and we always will.
‘Anyone who knows anything about our company knows this.’
Staff had reportedly been warned that Kozak and Taylor’s jobs were under threat if any more sensitive information was leaked, after executives in Austria were thought to have blamed them for the leak of the letter.
Another email written by Kozak referred to ‘the murder of George Floyd and countless others’ and voiced support for peaceful Black Lives Matter protests.
However, Kozak reportedly told employees on June 17 that the brand would not make further public comments on the matter.
Alexandre Ruberti and Marc Rosenmayr are said to be leading Red Bull North America until permanent replacements can be found.
In a statement the company said: ‘Red Bull has always put people and their dreams and accomplishments at its core and values the contribution of each and every person—no matter who they are.
‘We want everyone who feels this way to be welcome in Red Bull.’
DailyMail.com has contacted Red Bull for additional comment.
Austria’s Trump-admiring energy drinks mogul: Red Bull’s billionaire CEO Dietrich Mateschitz
Austrian magnate Dietrich Mateschitz founded Red Bull in 1987 after partnering with Thai entrepreneur Chaleo Yoovidhya to adapt a drink which was popular among labourers and taxi drivers in Thailand.
Red Bull is credited with introducing Europe and North America to the concept of the energy drink, and now sells more than seven billion cans per year in more than 170 countries.
Mateschitz’s wealth is now estimated at $26billion, making him the 57th-richest person in the world, and he owns a private island in Fiji. The Yoovidhya family, which maintains a 49 per cent share, were named in the Panama Papers which outlined some of their offshore financial arrangements.
After gaining popularity in Europe, Red Bull entered the US market in 1997, beginning in California and later spreading out across the country.
By 2005 Red Bull had a 47 per cent share of the US energy drinks market, although in recent years it has faced a challenge from rival Monster.
Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz, the co-founder and owner of Red Bull
Red Bull promotes its drinks with the slogan ‘Red Bull Gives You Wings’, while maintaining that it is marketed as a ‘conventional beverage’ and not as a ‘dietary supplement’.
The drink’s original recipe was banned in France from 1996 to 2008 over concerns about the ingredient taurine, until EU regulations forced them to relent because no health risk had been proven. Norway and Denmark also restricted sales.
Aside from its drinks empire, the firm has also become a major player in the sports world with its own Formula One team and a series of other franchises.
The F1 team won four consecutive world championships from 2010 to 2013, becoming the first Austrian constructor to win the title, with Germany’s Sebastian Vettel taking the drivers’ championship on all four occasions.
In soccer, Austrian team Red Bull Salzburg have seen unprecedented success since being taken over by the drinks firm in 2005, while Germany’s RB Leipzig have enjoyed a rapid rise since being founded in 2009 – although their wealthy backers have often made them unpopular with rival fans.
In 2006, the company moved into the US soccer market by taking over a New York team, renaming them the Red Bulls and building a stadium in Harrison, New Jersey called the Red Bull Arena.
Extreme sports events such as the Red Bull Air Race for pilots and Red Bull Crashed Ice for winter sports have further expanded the company’s brand.
Mateschitz, 76, also owns a media firm, and in 2017 unveiled plans to start a new platform called Closer To The Truth which was compared to Breitbart. He had previously criticised Germany and Austria’s governments for welcoming refugees at the height of the 2015 crisis.
Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel celebrates winning the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2013