German entrepreneur Theo Albrecht died on July 24, 2010 in Essen, Germany. Along with his brother, Karl, Albrecht started the popular grocery store chains ALDI and Trader Joe’s. These business ventures ranked Albrecht, who had a net worth of $16.7 billion, as the 31st richest person in the world by “Forbes” in 2010.
Born on March 28, 1922, Albrecht began his retail work as a young man when he worked in his mother’s grocery store. During World War II, he and Karl were in the German army and were arrested by Allied forced and became a prisoners of war (POW) in 1945.
After their release from the POW camp, the brothers collaborated and ran the family grocery store, selling only essential items. As the economy grew, so did the inventories within area grocery stores. Instead of following suit, however, the brothers kept their stores and selections small. This move increased efficiency and saved them money, which the brothers pass on to their customers.
The Boom of the Grocery Stores
In 1960, the brothers divided their responsibilities within the company and created the grocery store chain “ALDI,” which is a combination of the words “Albrecht discount.” ALSDI Foods is privately held, and the brothers never released financial information about them.
In 1979, Theo Albrecht purchased the Trader Joe’s grocery store chain in the U.S. The purchase was secretive, and Albrecht would never confirm if his family owned the chain.
Albrecht, a shy businessman, shrank even further away from the media and spotlight following his 1971 kidnapping. He was released 17 days after his capture, after the kidnappers were paid 7 million Deutschmarks.
The “Telegraph” reports Albrecht was a frugal man who wore cheap, ill-fitting suits. He was so frugal, in fact, that he haggled over the ransom sum with his kidnappers and claimed the unrecovered portion of it as a tax-deductible business expense. Lemon Drop states on their site that Albrecht also favored pencils to pens because they were cheaper, and even collected pencil stubs so he could use them later.
The cause of Albrecht’s death was not reported to the public. Albrecht’s wife Cilli, sons Theo and Berthold, and his brother Karl, who is now in his 90s, survive the executive.
[photo: ALDI Foods]