NOVEMBER 25, 2008

Red Bull buys out Berger

Red Bull has bought Gerhard Berger's share of Scuderia Toro Rosso and will once again own 100% of the shares in the Italian-based team, previously known as Minardi.

"I'm very grateful to Gerhard for his enormous input," said Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz. "Together we have made Toro Rosso a team which has regularly qualified in the top 10 and collected World Championship points. Red Bull will now run Toro Rosso alone, as well as remaining a partner of Red Bull Logistik."

The drinks company owns 50% of the transport company which belongs to the Berger Family, the other 50% remaining in the hands of Berger Beteiligungs GmbH.

The team scored its first victory this year at Monza with Sebastian Vettel surprising everyone with his pace in the damp conditions. The team has regularly outperformed Red Bull Racing, which has been using Renault engines, rather than the Ferraris that Toro Rosso has used.

It is not clear why Mateschitz has decided to go down this path. He had previously announced that his stake in the team was for sale but there were no obvious buyers. While there are some who think that Mateschitz is buying the team so as to be able to sell the whole thing, others feel that Berger probably decided to sell when it became obvious that he would need to help fund the operation in 2009. With sponsorship hard to find at the moment, that would have meant dipping into his own personal fortune and that is not something that Berger is likely to have been keen on doing.

The team has yet to name any drivers for 2009 although rumours in recent days have indicated that Switzerland's Sebastien Buemi is likely to be one of the drivers. Sebastien Bourdais has said that his continued involvement in the team will depend on money, but things may change now that Mateschitz is back in control.

Red Bull can afford it. The company sold 3.5bn cans of energy drink in 2007 - the last available figures - a 16.6% increase over the previous year. This created turnover of $4.9bn. The company does not announce its profits but it is reckoned that the firm can now afford to spend more than $1bn a year on its marketing programmes. The company is aiming to sell 6bn a year by the year 2010. The company has no plans to change its ownership structure and reckons that there are still five or six major markets around the world which it is yet to fully exploit. These include India, China, Japan, South Korea and Pakistan.