The energy drinks giant Red Bull has bought a majority stake of the Bora-Hansgrohe cycling team.
According to a notice published on Austria’s Federal Competition Authority, which was spotted by keen-eyed observers and posted on Twitter/X, Red Bull has acquired a 51 per cent stake in the German WorldTour cycling outfit.
The notice, filed under the category of merger control and described as a “planned purchase process”, states Red Bull has made an “indirect acquisition of controlling interests of 51% in RD pro cycling GmbH & Co KG and RD Beteiligungs GmbH,” which is the name of Bora-Hansgrohe’s holding company.
The 2024 season was already set to be a significant one for Bora-Hansgrohe, even before news of the takeover broke, as Primož Roglič’s arrival from Visma-Lease a Bike gives the squad their first top-flight GC rider, a multiple Grand Tour winner who is able to compete for the Tour de France’s yellow jersey.
Further details on exactly what the merger will entail are currently scarce, with no clue as to when or whether a rebrand will take place or what the future holds for Bora and Hansgrohe’s status as co-title sponsors.
In a statement, Bora-Hansgrohe said: Red Bull is planning to expand its involvement in road cycling and is aiming for a partnership with BORA – hansgrohe. By becoming a partner in Team Manager Ralph Denk’s operating company, Red Bull strives to complement the team’s portfolio of existing long-term main sponsors, who will remain on a long-term basis. The planned joint venture has been notified to the relevant antitrust authority.”
Red Bull and Bora-Hansgrohe already collaborated closely, launching a talent scouting programme called “Red Bull Junior Brothers” designed to unearth U19 riders who would be given the chance to ride for Bora-Hansgrohe’s U19 development squad, Team Auto Eder.
The German ski mountaineer, Anton Palzer, was personally sponsored by Red Bull before Bora-Hansgrohe became aware of his impressive numbers in training and high VO2 levels. Palzer has worn a Red Bull helmet when competing in both sports. Fellow rider Wout van Aert also wears the iconic Red Bull helmet and flapped his arms in celebration upon winning a Tour de France stage in the yellow jersey in 2022 in an admitted nod to the “gives you wings” slogan of Red Bull.
The move from personally sponsoring riders (Tom Pidcock is another, although is only permitted by Ineos Grenadiers to wear his Red Bull helmet when competing off-road) to acquiring one of the biggest WorldTour teams is a significant one.
Cycling now joins Formula One (Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Alpha Tauri), football (RB Leipzig and New York Red Bulls, amongst others) and ice hockey (EC Salzburg) as sports in which Red Bull not only provide funds in return for slapping their brand across competitors but actually own squads as part of their promotional and marketing strategy.
In some instances, these promotional activities have allowed Red Bull to develop new revenue streams, such as in the case of Red Bull Leipzig, a fifth-division German football club that was rebranded and climbed the ladder to eventually reach the Bundesliga. The team is now worth close to half a billion Euros.
With Red Bull having flirted with cycling sponsorship for many years, the question now will be what pushed them over the edge into buying a slice of the cycling pie? Was it Primož Roglič’s arrival, giving Red Bull a great chance to have their logos near the pointy end of the competition at the Tour de France?
Regardless, between negotiating Roglič’s arrival, grappling with Visma-Lease a Bike over their extraction of Cian Uijtdebroeks, and this Red Bull deal, team founder and manager Ralph Denk has had a busy off-season.
One final question: Red Bull taps coming to a bathroom near you soon?
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