Reclusive German Grocery Tycoon Dieter Schwarz Earns Multi-Billion Fortune With Aldi Copycat
Founder of Aldi for many years Karl Albrecht was the richest man in Germany. He was also notoriously secretive and shy. It turns out that he is not the only billionaire German grocer to have a taste for privacy. Dieter Schwarz, 80, is the founder of the German grocery chain LIDL. Fun fact: when Dieter opened his first LIDL in 1973, it was a direct scam from the Albrecht brothers’ Aldi. The concept worked. Today Schwarz is a billionaire with a net worth of $ 22 billion and is the 40e richest person in the world. Schwarz joined his father’s business Lidl & Schwarz KG “ and opened the company’s first discount supermarket, inspired by the Albrecht brothers in 1973.
He directly copied Aldi’s concept of offering a limited assortment of basic products and packaging to pass the savings on to customers. Products that did not sell quickly were quickly abandoned. Stores were as small as possible to keep costs down After his father’s death in 1977, he took control of the discount chain, which had grown to 33 stores in just four years. LIDL developed in the UK in 1994 and has grown steadily since then. In 2017, LIDL expanded to the United States. Today, LIDL has more than 10,000 stores in 27 countries, making it the fifth largest retailer in the world. Dieter Schwarz also controls Handelshof and Kaufland, a retail chain and a hypermarket, respectively.
Schwarz was born in 1939 in Heilbronn, Germany. He spent a year in the United States as a teenager in the 1950s. This experience had a profound impact on his life. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, he operated LIDL pop-up stores in tents in East Berlin to blow up his rival. He had, as you would expect, a bitter rivalry with the founders of Aldi, who would have called him “little Dieter Schwarz”. He surpassed the Albrecht brothers by hiring one of Aldi’s main leaders. This gave LIDL the advantage of competing with Aldi. Schwarz is also a major philanthropist.
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It is Schwarz’s infamous insistence on total privacy that fascinates people. It also turned out to be a sinkhole from which many conspiracy theories concerning Schwarz have developed over the years. A discredited claim said that Schwarz enjoys visiting German churches as a preacher. Another says his office still looks exactly like it did in the 1950s. Another insists that Schwarz likes to practice Abba music. While all of this is fun, these are probably just lies. The truth is a little more disturbing.
Politicians and Business
In the 1970s, there was a wave of high-profile kidnappings of politicians and business people in Germany. In 1971, founder of Aldi Theo Albrecht was kidnapped and detained by a lawyer with gambling debts for 17 days until a ransom of $ 2 million was paid (approximately $ 12.5 million today). It later emerged that Karl had been negotiating with the kidnapper for ransom for days. After the kidnapping, Karl and Theo became extremely secluded, secret and private people. In fact, Karl has never granted an interview in his entire life and there are only a few photos of him. In 1976 Richard Oetker, heir to the Dr. Oetker business of baking powder, cake mixes, frozen pizza, pudding, cake decorating, corn flakes and various other products, was kidnapped, locked in a box and tortured with electric shocks. Oetker was injured for life after his abduction.
Threats have also been made against Schwarz’s family, in particular his two young daughters. He, therefore, disappeared from public life. There are hardly any photos of him. No interview. No statement from him. He has kept his entire privacy in a way that makes the famed Mars family recluse social.