Did something huge just happen? When I heard the news that Red Bull, the sports drink behemoth and supplier of at least 10% of my kids’ daily energy, joined up with BORA Hansgrohe, that seemed like a big enough deal. But now it’s being reported that they are buying a majority stake in the team from current owner Ralph Denk, which is an entirely different matter and one we rarely bother to talk about.
But first, here are some things to know about Red Bull, which I am doing for amusement and — I am not kidding — because of my kids’ uncontrollable interest in their products. [Sigh. It could be worse I guess.]
Red Bull is actually an Austrian company founded by a guy who went to Thailand and drank a Krating Daeng, which literally translates to “red bull,” in case anyone finds their origin story at all unclear. I don’t remember having krating daeng in Thailand, but then there’s a lot I don’t remember, at least from the first couple visits, pre-kids. And if Thailand turned my boys into Red Bull customers… again, it could be worse. Anyway, for more Red Bull factoids, go here.
Red Bull, the company, are everywhere in action sports, with ties to car racing, X games, and too many other things for me to bother tracking down. They also own space in Wout Van Aert’s dome, or at least on it, with his distinctive helmet the product of a sponsorship that may or may not continue. [Wout is tied to Visma-Rent-a-Bike until the end of 2026, in case you think today’s news puts him on a syrupy path to BORA. If so, it’s not a short one.]
So their interest in cycling is just another point on the continuum of sports sponsorship that’s been going on for a long time. The purchase of team stock is something else entirely. Team ownership in cycling is weird and even somewhat anonymous in many cases, where the owner isn’t inserting him- or herself (OK, him) into the conversation. Rich guy Jim Ratcliffe owns INEOS and pops into view on occasion. Same for Zdenek Bakala, who now owns Soudal Quick Step, having bought in during the heyday of his countryman Zdenek Stybar. [Side note: everyone in the Czech Republic is named Zdenek.] Jumbo’s Richard Plugge seems to have come up as a sports director — and he seems more like the nominal “owner” with Pon behind the scenes — while Jonathan…