Theo Albrecht

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Theo Albrecht
Theodor Paul Albrecht

(1922-03-28)28 March 1922
Died24 July 2010(2010-07-24) (aged 88)
Known forCo-founder of Aldi, owned Trader Joe's and Aldi Nord
Net worth$16.7 billion
Spouse(s)Cäcilie Albrecht

Theodor Paul "Theo" Albrecht (German: [ˈalbʁɛçt]; 28 March 1922 – 24 July 2010)[1] was a German entrepreneur, who in 2010 was ranked by Forbes as the 31st richest person in the world, with a net worth of $16.7 billion.[2] He owned and was the CEO of the Aldi Nord discount supermarket chain. In the US he owned the Trader Joe's specialty grocery store chain. His brother Karl Albrecht owned the Aldi Süd discount supermarket chain. The two chains originally were a single family enterprise until a friendly division of assets in 1960. Aldi Süd operates the Aldi groceries in the United States. Aldi and Trader Joe's, while owned by the brothers, have separate and distinct ownership and operations.


Theo Albrecht and his brother Karl revolutionized the German grocery market with a low-cost business model. They had developed the supermarket as an outgrowth of their mother's small grocery store, which she had opened in 1913, in Essen, after Theo's father had developed emphysema as a miner.[3] Theodor learned the grocery business from his mother, in order to escape the fate of his father in the mines. He and his brother Karl developed Albrecht Diskont, one of Europe's largest chains of supermarkets, with the motto "The best quality at the lowest price," and now known by its acronym, Aldi.[4] Forbes has estimated Theo's fortune from the supermarket chain as approximately £11 billion.[5] Theodor and Karl Albrecht split the Aldi Company they founded in 1960 after a dispute about whether to sell cigarettes.[3] The supermarket divided into two legally separate operating units with two geographical locations. Theodor's Aldi Nord set to operate in the north of Germany and Karl's Aldi Süd, set to operate in Germany's south. The progression of Aldi under Karl and Theodor Albrecht stands as one of Germany's greatest success stories. Theodor retired from daily operations in 1993 and remained as chairman of the board.[6]


In 1971, Albrecht was kidnapped for 17 days. A ransom of seven million German marks (approximately US$2 million at the time) was paid for his release (in small bills).[7] He was held at gunpoint by Heinz-Joachim Ollenburg, a lawyer, and his accomplice Paul Kron. The ransom sum was delivered by the Bishop of Essen. His kidnappers were eventually caught by authorities, but only half of the money was recovered.[6] Albrecht later successfully[8] claimed the ransom as a tax deductible business expense in court.[6]

Personal life[edit]

During World War II, Theodor was conscripted into the Wehrmacht and served with Rommel's Afrika Korps.[4] Theodor was captured by the Americans in Tunisia. In 1946 he returned to Germany.[3] It was said that his humble and harsh childhood formed Theodor's early appreciation for the value of money.

Theodor's kidnapping in 1971 partially explains his and the family's hermit-like manner of existence. The kidnapping caused him to drive to work in an armored car, using a different route every day. Little is known about Theodor Albrecht and the Albrecht family's personal lives. The Albrecht family are known to be very reclusive and have been described by Forbes as ‘more reclusive than the yeti’.[6] Theodor was rarely pictured by photographers and he never made a public statement. It has been claimed that he was a devout Roman Catholic.[3] The last published photo of Theo Albrecht dates from 1971, one day after his kidnapping. Another photo of the two Albrecht brothers together was taken in 1987 by journalist Franz Ruch.[9]

Theodor and his brother Karl were once said to own an island located in the North Sea where they indulged their hobbies such as golf and pastimes including the collecting of antique typewriters.[10] Theodor had, as do members of the Albrecht family now, a highly secure estate overlooking the Ruhr valley. Obsessed with frugality, Theodor is said to have collected and used pencil stubs frequently. He was also known to wear cheap, poorly fitting suits and preferred plain meals with many potatoes.[10] When he was asked to approve the plans for a new store in the Netherlands, he stated that the design was good, but the paper it was drawn on was too thick: "If you use thinner paper we will save money." [7]

Theodor Albrecht died 24 July 2010, in his home town of Essen, Germany.[1]


  1. ^ a b c "Aldi-Gründer Theo Albrecht ist tot" [Aldi co-founder Theo Albrecht is dead]. Der Spiegel (in German). 28 July 2010.
  2. ^ Forbes profile page on Theo Albrecht March 2010
  3. ^ a b c d Hall, Allan (7 December 2012). "Secretive Aldi family announce death of main heir to £11 billion supermarket fortune." Daily Mail UK. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  4. ^ a b "Theo Albrecht: One of the two brothers behind the Aldi supermarket empire". The Independent. London. 14 August 2010. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  5. ^ "Theo Albrecht, Jr. & family". Forbes. 3 March 2014. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d "Theo Albrecht". The Telegraph. London. 30 July 2010. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  7. ^ a b Brown, Emma (29 July 2010). "Theo Albrecht, 88, dies; started Aldi food chain and expanded Trader Joe's". Washington Post UK. Retrieved 2 April 2014.[dead link]
  8. ^
  9. ^ "The World's Billionaires". Forbes.
  10. ^ a b van der Vat, Dan (5 August 2010). "Theo Albrecht obituary". The Guardian UK. Retrieved 2 April 2014.

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