One of the founding brothers of the Aldi discount supermarket chain has died at the age of 88. Theo Albrecht goes to his grave as one of the richest men on the planet with a fortune in excess of $16 billion.
Together with his brother Karl, two years his senior, he created the notable no-frills grocery chain Aldi – which is derived from ‘Albrecht Discount’ for their roles as Private Brand visionaries they were inducted into the Private Brand Hall of Fame in 2009.
His death was announced by a representative of the company he owned, Aldi, which also owns the Trader Joe’s chain in the United States.
The stores are hallmarked by their no frills merchandising with products displayed on pallets, and no chic decorations or piped muzak.
Theo was born on March 28, 1922 – and for him and Karl, the retail trade was in their blood.
Their mother set up a small grocery shop in Essen after their father, a miner (and later a baker’s assistant), developed the lung condition emphysema. Determined not to follow their classmates into the mines and factories, Karl trained at a deli, while Theo learned the grocery business from their mother.
After being released from Allied prisoner-of-war camps following World War II, Theo and Karl Albrecht took over their parents’ small grocery in the Essen and, out of necessity, sold only a small number of essential items. When the economy began to boom, competitors added to their inventories, but the Albrecht brothers realized they could operate more efficiently by limiting selection and keeping stores small.
The brothers stuck to that business model as they steadily expanded throughout Germany and eventually Europe and overseas markets, including the United States.
Although Theo remained involved, like his brother, in the running of the company, a panel of other family members and representatives has helped manage Aldi in recent times.