THE German businessman Karl Albrecht, who co-founded the Aldi supermarket chain, has passed away. He was 94.
Mr. Albrecht founded Aldi — which is short for Albrecht Discount — along with his brother Theo in the city of Essen just after the Second World War. The brothers had both returned from army service, and a spell in prisoner of war camps, to take over their mother’s corner shop. By the late 1940s they began to open other shops across the city, and by 1960 they had more than 300 discount stores in West Germany. Today, Aldi has nearly 5,000 stores worldwide.
Karl Albrecht, who was one of the richest men in the world, was intensely private and was rarely seen in public. Indeed, he kept such a low profile that the few quotations attributed to him apparently stem from a speech he made in 1953.
His reclusive nature intensified after his brother was kidnapped in 1971. Karl negotiated Theo’s release after 17 days.
The brothers divided the company in 1961 after a disagreement about whether to sell cigarettes. After this Karl ran Aldi Süd [South], which includes the British arm of the operation, and Theo ran Aldi Nord [North].
Theo Albrecht passed away in 2010. Karl retired from the business, which remains in family ownership, in 2002. He apparently divided his time in retirement growing orchids and playing golf on a course he built in the mid-1970s.
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