BERLIN, July 21 (Reuters) - Karl Albrecht, the man credited with bringing discount stores to Europe with the no-frills Aldi supermarket chain, died aged 94 last Wednesday, Aldi said in a statement.
Publicity-shy Albrecht co-founded privately held Aldi with his brother Theo after World War Two and seventy years later was ranked by Forbes as Germany’s richest person with a fortune of almost $26 billion.
He resigned from the operational business in 1994 and stepped down from the company’s advisory board in 2002.
The Albrecht family did not issue a statement. It has fiercely guarded its privacy since the kidnapping of Theo for 17 days in 1971. He was eventually released after a ransom of about $3 million was paid.
When Berthold Albrecht, Theo’s son, died aged 58 in 2012, the family announced the news weeks after the death with full-page spreads in German papers.
A spokesman for the city of Essen, where Albrecht lived, said a funeral was held on Monday for close family only.
The cradle of the Albrecht brothers’ chain was their mother’s small grocery business in Essen, from which they created one of the nation’s largest food retailers with their focus on a limited selection of bargain goods in spartan stores.
Aldi, a contraction of ‘Albrecht Discount’, was split into two divisions covering north and south Germany in 1960. Theo took the north and Karl the south.
The dominance of Aldi and rival Lidl has made it hard for international firms, such as Wal Mart, to break into the supermarket scene in Europe’s largest economy.
Karl’s brother Theo died aged 88 in July 2010, leaving his wealth to the family foundation.
Aldi Sued, which has about 1,880 supermarkets in the south of Germany, had sales of about 15 billion euros ($20 billion) in 2012, according to media reports. ($1 = 0.7399 euros) (Reporting by Annika Breidthardt; Additional reporting by Anneli Palmen in Duesseldorf; Editing by Louise Ireland)