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FEBRUARY 9, 2006

Berger and Red Bull

Even a few days ago Gerhard Berger was saying that he had no plans to return to Formula 1. That he wanted to spend more time with his family and friends and not live the F1 life. But Dietrich Mateschitz is sufficiently wealthy to be ultimately persuasive and it seems that the Red Bull baron's offer to take half of Berger's transport company and give Berger half of the shares in Scuderia Toro Rosso was one that Berger found trouble refusing. Mateschitz acquired the team for $30m last year and has been investing in recent months.

Berger has never been very good at staying home and running the family business, as was proved when he retired from driving and then very quickly returned as the director of BMW Motorsport.

Berger's transport company is something which he rarely talks about in any great detail but is one of the biggest businesses in the Tirol region of Austria. The Berger Group was established 40 years ago by Johann Berger in Radfeld, near Innsbruck. Berger ran the company until his death in an air crash in 1997 after which the business passed on to his children Gerhard and Claudia. Gerhard owns the majority share in the holding company of the family empire. The company has been considerably restructured in recent years but currently runs around 220 tracks which cover 31m miles each year delivering goods. The company also has a trailer manufacturing business which builds around 400 trailers a year. Overall the firm employs around 400 people and has a turnover of around $120m. To buy 50% of the business, even for Dietrich Mateschitz, is not the work of a moment and will not have come cheaply nor will it have been a deal that was done in a few days. There is no doubt that Mateschitz will benefit from the deal as producing and distributing Red Bull is a complicated business as the cans are made by consumer packaging group Rexam at various plants in Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic and Red Bull production is done by Rauch in Austria and more recently at a new factory in Widnau, Switzerland. The Red Bull company is doing more of its own distribution which will be focussed solely on the brand and so it needs trucks to move the product around Europe.

Berger was the first topline athlete to be involved with Red Bull in the mid-1980s and played an important role in promoting the drink in the early years in Austria.