Austrian-based soft drink maker Red Bull has sacked three of its top executives apparently in retaliation after an offensive internal marketing presentation was leaked to media.
According to reports, CEO of Red Bull’s North American operations Stefan Kozak and CMO Amy Taylor have both been given their marching orders.
The sackings come after slides from an internal marketing presentation were leaked to media that, among other things, described India as “call centres,” the Middle East as “evil-doers” with an arrow indicating “bombs go here,” and Africa as “zoo animals come from here”, while China has “they make our stuff”.
Check out B&T’s original reporting here.
The presentation was delivered to a US delegation in Detroit back in February and was headed by a visiting team from the Austrian head office headed by Florian Klaass, Red Bull’s global head of music, entertainment and culture marketing. Klaass has also reportedly been sacked.
According to reports, there were 100 delegates in attendance, many of which were left “shocked and offended” by the presentation. Some even complaining to HR, although no action was taken.
To make matters worse for the company, images from 2015 from a Russian Red Bull Flugtag event featuring Barack Obama and men in blackface chasing a banana have also resurfaced, increasing scrutiny of the brand’s culture.
There has also been reports that Red Bull staff in the US have grown frustrated by the head office in Vienna to engage with social issues such as the Black Lives Matters movement who have regarded it as a “local” issue for the US.
An unnamed Red Bull employee has told local media that they believed Kozak’s and Taylor’s sacking related to the leaked marketing slides.
“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,” the employee said. “Two employees said Taylor had been working on a project to increase Black representation at Red Bull but that the leadership wasn’t interested.”
Red Bull is owned by Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz who had previously shown his support for Donald Trump, voiced support for right-wing parties in Austria and opposed refugee intakes into the country.
Commenting on the leaked slide and its content, a company spokeswoman told Business Insider: “Red Bull rejects racism in any form and we do not condone language or behavior that indicates otherwise.
“We need to reflect this in our business and daily lives. We acknowledge we have work to do.
“We have dedicated internal and external resources to continue to drive towards a more inclusive work environment through education and awareness, including employee training that is currently underway. Further, Red Bull has harassment, discrimination and retaliation policies in place and investigates all complaints thoroughly,” the spokeswoman said.
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