Red Bull fired its top two North American executives, CEO Stefan Kozak and president and CMO Amy Taylor, and global head of music, entertainment, and culture marketing Florian Klaass.
A person with direct knowledge of the firings, who is known to Business Insider but requested anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss it, said Klaass was let go over his role in a February corporate event where a presentation slide was shown that featured racist stereotypes.
The slide, which was leaked to Business Insider, showed a world map that labeled the Middle East and Southeast Asia as "evil doers," continental Europe as "pussies," and South America as "coffee comes from here I think." Multiple employees said Klaass' Austria-based team included the slide despite being warned not to do so by US colleagues.
Red Bull more recently has been rife with internal tensions over Black Lives Matter. Employees leaked a letter that was sent June 1 to Kozak and Taylor criticizing the company's "public silence" on the movement.
The three fired executives did not immediately respond to requests for comment. An internal memo confirming the US changes is printed at the bottom of this story.
Employees said the firings were acts of retaliation
Several insiders close to the situation said it was widely believed that Kozak and Taylor were fired by Austrian leadership over the leak and internal tension over diversity issues. Two employees said Taylor had been working on a project to increase Black representation at Red Bull but that the leadership wasn't interested.
Another employee said that managers urged staff not to leak any more information, warning that Kozak and Taylor could be fired if leaks continued.
Red Bull also cancelled several major cultural events and dissolved the teams that oversee them
Along with firing the executives, Red Bull cut or dissolved entertainment and culture teams in Canada, the UK, and Austria and canceled most of its major cultural events, including its annual Red Bull Music Festival and Red Bull Presents.
"Red Bull has decided to strengthen the focus of its culture marketing programs on where it makes most impact," the spokeswoman said. "Culture programs that remain include Red Bull BC One, Red Bull Dance Your Style, Red Bull Batalla de los Gallos."
Two employees said global CEO Dietrich Mateschitz told staff earlier this year that there wouldn't be any layoffs in 2020.
Two others who work in marketing, however, said management told them that between 20 and 50 people were laid off or told that they would have to choose between new jobs and exit packages.
Another employee said the culture teams were seen as the most vocal about racial justice matters and that US staffers saw the restructuring as a form of punishment.
The company's board said it rejected racism
Red Bull consists of two separate organizations: Austria-based Red Bull GmbH and Red Bull North America, headquartered in Santa Monica.
Employees told Business Insider the firings and leaks illustrate a divide between the company's US culture and its more conservative Austrian leaders.
Red Bull's board of directors addressed the leaks in a June 26 memo that read: "We reject racism in every form, we always have, and we always will. Anyone who knows anything about our company knows this."
"Red Bull has always put people and their dreams and accomplishments at its core and values the contribution of each and every person — no matter who they are. We want everyone who feels this way to be welcome in Red Bull," it concluded.
Kozak spent 16 years with the company, running its Canadian and Latin American divisions before being named North American CEO in July 2010. Taylor had been with Red Bull for 20 years after working with the Atlanta Hawks organization. Klaass was a 14-year veteran.
Read the memo announcing the North American restructuring below.
I would like to share with you the changes that will happen in Red Bull North America this week.
Stefan Kozak and Amy Taylor will leave Red Bull. We would like to thank Stefan and Amy for their contribution and wish them the best for the future. Stefan and Amy's successors as CEO and CMO respectively will be announced at a later stage.
In the interim period and for the Business Planning process:
- Matt Rosenmayr and Alexandre Ruberti will be responsible for local co-ordination in the US and will represent the US Leadership Team in Austria.
- Alexandre Ruberti will continue to lead Sales and Distribution for RBNA and RBDC and in the interim will take on the responsibility of our 3 Business Units.
- Bill Connors, Eddie Hayden and Joe Waters will report to Alexandre.
- Anjelica Garcia, Djenaba Parker and Marc Rosenmayr will continue to lead their respective teams.
- Ken Turner will, on top of his current role as Head of Brand Marketing, coordinate the other Marketing disciplines with the support of Markus Obrist (Area Marketing Manager NA)
- Alexandre, Anjelica, Djenaba, Ken, Marc and Keith DeGrace will report to him.
These changes are effective immediately.
We are extremely proud of what the North American business has been able to achieve including increasing our market share in what has been a challenging year for all of us and we want to say thank you to everyone for your commitment to continue to deliver excellent results. We look forward to your 2021 plans to help grow our brand for the future.
We will work closely with the business leaders to ensure a successful 2020 and Business Plan 2021 and I will travel to the US and Canada as soon as I am able to do so.
Chief Commercial Officer
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