Red Bull GmbH
Looking at a map I thought it would be a quick 15-mile jaunt
from Salzburg to Fuschl am See, the quiet lakeside village which
is home to energy drink maker Red Bull. Wrong, this isn't the
Dutch flatlands it's Austrian Alps territory. It's a hot day
and a long uphill ride on a two-lane road to reach Fuschl am
See. A cold drink, any kind of cold drink sounds good to me as
I find the unassuming offices of Red Bull.
Red Bull is quite a success story. Working out of his home in
Salzburg back in 1987, Dietrich Mateschitz (57 years-old) pretty
much created the energy drink category. Last year this single
product company had an estimated $1.2 billion in revenues---and
controls 70% of the energy drink market. Mateschitz owns 49%
of privately held Red Bull, Chaleo Yoovidhya 49% and the remaining
2% in a trust.
How unassuming is this headquarters? Well, this quaint little
village probably has no more than a couple hundred residents
and I manage to ride right past the two-story head office located
on the main road through town. Then again, I was on a nice long
downhill coming into town and had seen the building but noticed
a big construction project going on next to it and assumed it
was government electrical power generator facility being built.
Entering the building I find no reception area, no counter, no
chairs, no phones on a table, no nothing to let visitors know
where to go or what to do. I peer into one of the rooms and ask
if there's a reception area. "This is it", a woman
answers. After explaining who I am and what I do I'm led into
a large expansive atrium area to wait. This isn't your normal
waiting area; it's evidently designed to look like an oasis.
The floor is completely filled in with white pebble gravel and
slabs of black and white marble are used as stepping-stones to
bamboo chairs. Tall palm trees and three dozen or so potted plants
and other kinds of trees are placed around the room. At one end
of this atrium room there's a long table with 10 red padded chairs
Thomas Ueberhall is corralled to meet with me. His business card
contains his name but no title. According to Ueberhall nobody
has titles. However, if he did his would be Director of Marketing.
Ueberhall hasn't seen my introductory material sent a month earlier
to Norbert Kralhammer, President, so he's somewhat suspicious
of what I'm doing-suggesting I'm collecting all this data to
sell to competitors.
This two-story building used to be home to an artist's colony
before Red Bull took it over in the late 1980's. When Ueberhall
says 150 people work at the head office I'm taken aback because
it's not a very big building. That's when I find out about the
two volcanoes. Remember my saying earlier that I initially cycled
right past this place because I thought it was a utility or power
station facility? Well, the big construction project going on
next door featuring two concrete structures looking like nuclear
power generators are actually going to be concrete volcanoes
AND will be Red Bull's new headquarters. Get it? Volcanoes &
exploding energy equals Red Bull. Anyway, in the rear of the
construction site are mobile office containers stacked atop each
other. These house additional Red Bull workers until the new
facility is finished.
There're are no recreational facilities but the picturesque lake
(about 10 miles in diameter) lies directly across the road providing
a slew of sporting possibilities. Smoking is allowed in the offices,
there's no company cafeteria, it's a 20-minute drive to Salzburg
Airport, five-minute drive to the nearest freeway and the company
has one corporate aircraft, a Citation 2. There's no formal dress
code with shorts being acceptable workwear. Parking for bicycles
doesn't exist because it isn't an easy commute getting in and
out of this mountain lake community.
I can't see the boardroom but do get a peek into Founder Mateschitz's
first floor corner office. He has a desktop computer, three real
plants, cans of Red Bull and a not very interesting view of the
Any employee perks? Vending machines dole out free cans of Red
Bull. While waiting to meet with Ueberhall I help myself to a
Red Bull. It was great going down but several hours later I came
down with stomach cramps. Was it the Red Bull or the three pastries
I wolfed down earlier from a nearby bakery?