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Aldi Co-Founder Theo Albrecht Dies Aged 88

Theodor Paul Albrecht (28 March 1922 – 24 July 2010)

Theo Albrecht, the joint founder of the popular budget supermarket giant Aldi, last seen in public after his release from kidnap 39 years ago, has died aged 88. The company said he died on Saturday in his home city of Essen, but gave no cause of death.

The Albrecht brothers, Karl and Theo, co-founders of Aldi, were amongst the two wealthiest people in Germany, with fortunes in excess of €17.35bn and €16.75bn respectively.

Little is known about the two reclusive brother billionaires, with Theo’s last public appearance being in 1971, shortly after his release, after 17 days captivity, by kidnappers who were reportedly paid a $4.67 million ransom.

One rare photo of Theo Albrecht, from the 1980s, shows a nondescript looking man with grey hair and glasses who apparently devoted his spare time to collecting old typewriters, growing orchids and to playing golf on his own private greens.

The first Aldi stores – an acronym standing for “Albrecht Discount” – opened in the early 1960s under the motto: “Concentrating on the basics: a limited selection of goods for daily needs.” The stores began sprouted up all over Germany and are now to be found in nearly 20 countries since their conception.

The Aldi group presently operates about 8,210 individual stores worldwide. A new store opens every week in Britain alone, and the company operates approximately 70 outlets here in Ireland with one popular outlet here in Thurles, Co.Tipperary.

Theo Paul Albrecht was renowned as a hard working man who was always decent with his business partners and employees and who always treated people with the greatest respect.

Mr Albrecht and his elder brother both served as German soldiers in the Second World War, before returning home to Essen and taking over a grocery store their parents owned. They flourished as the German economy, then in shambles after the war, came back to life in what is often referred too as the “Economic Miracle”.  If you think Ireland has severe financial problems presently, remember Germany, according to the Potsdam Conference held between July 17 and August 2, 1945, had to pay the Allies $20 billion mainly in machinery, and manufacturing plants.  In addition, in accordance with the agreed policy of de-industrialisation and pastoralization, large numbers of civilian factories were dismantled for transport to France and the UK, or simply destroyed.  Germany paid Israel 450 million DM in Holocaust reparations, and paid 3 billion DM to the World Jewish Congress to compensate survivors in other countries.

When Forbes featured the brothers in 1992 as two of the world’s richest men, the magazine had to uses silhouettes rather than photographs to illustrate the article since no pictures of them had been published in many years.

The German Retail Federation said that Germany had lost one of its greatest entrepreneurs. “There are only a few people who have stamped their mark on an entire business sector of the economy. Theo Albrecht achieved just that,” the Federation’s managing director, Stefan Genth, said in a statement.

Aldi now has more than 4,000 outlets in Germany alone, where it is known for its no-frills quality shopping environment, streamlined processes and a limited range of discount products.

The brothers retired as CEOs in 1993 and gave most of their wealth to foundations. The Aldi group operates about 8,210 individual stores worldwide, with a new store opening every week in Britain alone.

Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a anam dílis.

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