Heir to the Aldi supermarket chain;

Born: 1954; Died: November 2012.

Berthold Albrecht, who has died aged 58, was one of Germany's richest men and heir to the Aldi supermarket chain.

Loading article content

The company, founded by his grandparents and developed into the giant it is today by his father and uncle, was always run on the same principle, and still is: a limited range of goods, at low prices, sold without any frills. It is a principle that made Aldi increasingly important during the economic downturn and a sometimes controversial behemoth among supermarkets.

Berthold Albrecht was born in Essen in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the son of Theo Albrecht. In 1913, Theo's mother had set up a small grocery store in the city after her husband, who had been a miner, developed emphysema. They struggled to make the business work on little money and it was perhaps this that taught the whole family the habit of thrift, a philosophy enshrined in the company name, a combination of Albrecht and discount.

After the Second World War, Theo and his brother Karl took over the running of the company and began to open more stores, modelled on their parents' original shop.

From 13 stores, the chain grew to become the biggest in Germany and one of the biggest in the world.

In 1960 the company was split into two divisions covering north and south Germany. Karl took over the running of the south and Theo, and then Berthold, ran the north.

Berthold eventually became chair of the foundation that owns Aldi Nord and oversaw the company's entry into the lucrative US market, where they own the chain Trader Joe's.

Since 1993, the family has taken a back seat from day-to-day operations at Aldi, which has an estimated worldwide annual turnover of about £40 billion. According to his colleagues, Berthold knew how to push the group forward and was liked by everyone.

Not much more is known about his personal life – the family has guarded its privacy since the kidnapping of Berthold's father for 17 days in 1971. He was eventually released after a ransom of about £1.8 million was paid. True to his thrifty principles, he then went to court to have the ransom classified as a tax-deductible business expense.

Together with his brother Theo Jr, Berthold's fortune has been estimated at £11.2bn. That placed them at No 32 in the list of Forbes billionaires and second for Germany.

Berthold is survived by his wife Babette and five children.