Exclusive Exclusive: Aldi Heir Theo Albrecht Jr. Warns Family Spat Threatening Discount Chain

The world’s largest discount supermarket chain Aldi is in the middle of a major family feud that could threaten the entire family-run empire, the company’s heir has warned in his first ever interview. Theo Albrecht Jr, the reclusive heir of the Aldi empire and Germany’s second-richest man according to Forbes, told Handelsblatt that a legal spat with his sister-in-law was threatening to become a “burden” for the company. Babette, the widow of Theo Albrecht’s late brother Berthold, succeeded via court action in having two of her daughters lead the board of the Jakobus Foundation, a foundation that is linked to the retail chain and where Berthold invested his 19.5-percent stake in Aldi Nord. Three foundations linked to Aldi Nord are required to approve major strategic decisions of the company. Mr. Albrecht, who is appealing the court ruling, argued the decision has allowed the two daughters to block key company decisions, for example on foreign expansion plans. “If the old rule really remains in place, the children of Berthold, together with their lawyer, could lead this company around by the nose,” Mr. Albrecht said. Babette and her five daughters reject the accusation, and court documents show they have yet to block a major decision by the company. Instead, they recently approved a €127-million capital increase. Mr. Albrecht, however, warned that the uncertainty over the company’s leadership comes at a time when competitors like Lidl are expanding and modernizing their stores. He said that key investment decisions related to modernizing stores in France and Denmark remained outstanding. While Germany has recently gone through a modernization, he said stores here too must be constantly updated. “Standing still means stepping backwards,” he said. “This is about the future of the company.” Aldi Nord has nearly 10,000 stores in 18 countries and estimated revenues of more than €50 billion.   Read the full story in Thursday’s Handelsblatt Global Edition at 12:00 CET. Picture source: Roland Weihrauch/DPA