The founders of German grocer Aldi, brothers Theo and Karl Albrecht, died in 2010 and 2014, respectively, and handed the company over to the next generation. Karl’s children, Karl Albrecht Jr. and Beate Heister, and Theo’s son, Theo Albrecht Jr., are worth an estimated $51.5B combined. Theo Sr. bought U.S. grocer Trader Joe’s in 1971, passing the franchise to his descendants. With the inherited fortune, the heirs are the most wealthy family in Germany. Between the two franchises, the family owns more than 2,000 grocery stores in the United States and more than 10,000 worldwide, a number that is growing rapidly.
Karl Sr. and Theo Sr. founded Aldi after World War II, when they returned from Allied prisoner-of-war camps to find their parents’ small grocery store still standing in the war-torn city of Essen, Germany. They originally called the stores Albrecht before changing the name to Aldi, short for Albrecht discount. The brothers split the company in 1961, keeping two separate entities under the same Aldi brand that they expanded throughout different parts of Europe. The chain opened its first U.S. store in Iowa in 1976.
Aldi stores have a smaller inventory than their competitors, selling just the necessities and stacking items in boxes on wooden pallets as they are delivered. This allows the store to keep its prices lower than the competition and maintain a smaller physical footprint. Aldi Süd, the entity owned by Karl Jr. and Beate, earned €48.2B ($53.5B) of revenue in 2015. Aldi Nord and Trader Joe’s, the entities owned by Theo Jr., combined for an estimated 2015 revenue of €31.7B ($35.2B).
Like their parents, the second generation of Aldi owners keep a low profile. Karl Jr., born in 1948, is married with no children and stepped away from his formal duties after being diagnosed with cancer. Beate is married with six children. Theo, born in 1950, is married with one child. His sister Berthold, with whom he split his father’s fortune, died in 2012. — Jon Banister
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