Formula One legend and airline entrepreneur Niki Lauda has died at the age of 70.
He passed away in his sleep on Monday, May 20, eight months after receiving a lung transplant.
The Austrian motor racer was the only driver in F1 history to have been a champion for Ferrari and McLaren and is remembered for his recovery and return to racing after being badly burned in a crash in the 1976 German Grand Prix.
He became an aviation entrepreneur following his F1 career, founding and running three airlines; Lauda Air, Niki and Laudamotion.
Lauda sold his Lauda Air shares to majority partner, Austrian Airlines in 1999. In 2003 he set up a new airline, Niki, which merged with Air Berlin in 2011.
He took over the charter airline Amira Air in 2016, renaming it LaudaMotion and later taking over the Niki brand as a result of Air Berlin’s insolvency.
Ryanair acquired Laudamotion in late 2018 as a low-cost Austrian offshoot.
A statement from his family said: “His unique achievements as an athlete and entrepreneur are and will remain unforgettable, his tireless zest for action, his straightforwardness and his courage remain a role model and a benchmark for all of us.”
Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Ryanair said: “Niki Lauda will remain in our heart and our memory as a visionary leader, a legend of Formula 1 and an aviation pioneer. Niki was an exceptional entrepreneur whose courage and fighting spirit inspired millions.
“While we are devastated at his untimely passing, his spirit and vision will live on in Laudamotion, which proudly carries his name and his entrepreneurial spirit. It’s a sad day for Formula 1 and Laudamotion. Niki’s spirit and his legacy will live on forever. Niki and his family are all in our thoughts and prayers today. May he rest in peace.”
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