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Helicopter ride for coffee-the rise of Leipzig

Red Bull’s Austrian founder Dietrich Mateschitz (C) attends the German first division Bundesliga football match between RB Leipzig and Hertha BSC Berlin in Leipzig, eastern Germany on December 17, 2016 © AFP / ROBERT MICHAEL

BERLIN, Germany, Dec 21 – RB Leipzig’s billionaire owner Dietrich Mateschitz will hope to continue being his team’s lucky charm when they tackle champions Bayern Munich on Wednesday, with top spot the winners’ prize.

The 72-year-old Austrian, the co-founder 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.

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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.

Leipzig´s supporters cheer during the German first division Bundesliga football match between RB Leipzig and Hertha BSC Berlin in Leipzig, eastern Germany on December 17, 2016 © AFP / Robert MICHAEL

“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).

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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.

But RB Leipzig have demanded plenty of attention by picking off top names in the Bundesliga this season.

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