A family feud and falling sales are threatening the future of the ALDI discount supermarket chain.
The company experienced considerable losses in Germany last year, only making a profit thanks to its foreign operations.
In 2017, German profit after taxes halved to about 200 million euros. Last year saw a loss of at least 10 million euros. The drop was partially blamed on renovation and new store opening costs.
In 2017, the board agreed to a major investment and modernisation program and an end to the company’s traditional practice of operating according to strict rules governing order and obedience.
It’s since been revealed that the will of the late wife of one of ALDI’s founders, Cäcilie Albrecht, has declared that her grandchildren and their mother are excluded from future business decisions.
The will accuses the five children of her late son Berthold and his widow Babette of lavish spending that is at odds with the firm’s frugal philosophy, and of siphoning millions from company funds to finance their lavish lifestyles.
ALDI was founded by brothers Karl and Theo Albrecht (Cäcilie’s husband) in 1946, with the name being short for Albrecht Diskont. It split into two separate companies in 1960, now known as Aldi Nord and Süd.
Both arms operate internationally, with more than 10,000 stores in 20 countries, including Australia.
The German retailer is governed by three foundations – Markus, Lukas and Jakobus – to protect ALDI from a hostile takeover.
Cäcilie’s will says Babette and her children misused more than €100million from one of the family’s foundations and blocked vital company decision-making.
Albrecht declared: “With this document I undertake to ensure the preservation of the philosophy of our family, which is to serve the consortium Aldi Nord and to foster this, at the same time as setting aside self-interests and practising a modest and abstemious way of life.
“Berthold himself said when he was alive that he had considerable doubts as to the suitability of his children to respect the life’s work of my husband who, with my support, built the consortium Aldi Nord, and to serve it with respect and with responsibility towards its thousands of employees.”
Family lawyer Andreas Urban said: “The heirs of Berthold Albrecht have always been concerned since the death of their father, more than six years ago, for the welfare of Aldi Nord.
“This can be deduced in particular from the considerable financial means which have flowed into the company from the Jakobus foundation as well as from the support for important corporate projects. The heirs of Berthold Albrecht therefore need not reproach themselves in any way.”
The Albrecht family – aside from Babette’s brood – are incredibly private. They became recluses after Theo was kidnapped for 17 days in 1970.
Following his release, Theo would travel to work in an armoured car after the incident, using a different route every day.
He refused all media interviews and didn’t attend Aldi store openings. He was known to use pencils down to their stubs, wore cheap suits, and never allowed his stores to have fancy decor.
Babette Albrecht, however, has appeared on dancing TV program Let’s Dance, been interviewed by Gala magazine and is known to splash out on expensive cars and art.