The $40 billion supermarket dynasty behind Aldi is feuding after the founder’s wife moved to cut her grandchildren out of the business for their lavish spending

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REUTERS/Michael Dalder

  • The Albrechts, the nearly $40 billion family behind the supermarket chains Aldi and Trader Joe’s, are feuding after an Aldi cofounder’s wife cut her grandchildren and their mother out of the company in her will, accusing them of lavish spending.
  • Cäcilie Albrecht, who died in November, accused five of her late son’s children and his widow of taking money from the company to fund luxurious lifestyles, The Guardian reported. They have denied the allegations.
  • Albrecht wrote in her will about the importance of “setting aside self-interests and practising a modest and abstemious way of life,” the report said.
  • Albrecht’s late husband, Theo, and his brother, Karl, turned their mother’s grocery store in Germany into an international supermarket chain worth billions, but the family has remained famously quiet and frugal.

The European family behind Aldi and Trader Joe’s is feuding after the wife of one of Aldi’s founders cut her grandchildren and daughter-in-law out of the company in her will over their lavish spending.

Cäcilie Albrecht – the wife of Theo Albrecht, who founded the German supermarket giant Aldi with his brother, Karl – accused the five children of her late son, Berthold, and his widow, Babette, of spending extravagantly and out of line with the company’s frugal philosophy, The Guardian reported.

In her will, Cäcilie Albrecht, who died in November, accused Babette Albrecht and her children of siphoning €100 million ($112 million) from one of the company’s foundations to fund their lifestyles, The Guardian reported. She also accused them of blocking company decision-making and said they should have no role in its future.

The family members named in her will have denied any wrongdoing, The Guardian said.

Andreas Urban, a lawyer for Babette Albrecht and her children, told The Guardian in a statement that “piety and decency dictate that this will should not be publicly evaluated.”

Read more: Meet the Albrechts, the highly secretive heirs to the Aldi fortune, who are worth $38.8 billion, own Trader Joe’s, and have kept a famously low profile for decades

Cäcilie Albrecht helped her husband and his brother turn their mother’s small grocery store in Essen, Germany, into an international supermarket chain that raised the family’s net worth to an estimated $38.8 billion in 2018, according to Bloomberg.

Aldi, short for Albrecht Discount, split into Aldi Süd and Aldi Nord in 1960 after Karl and Theo Albrecht disagreed about whether to sell cigarettes.

Theo and Karl Albrecht turned their mother's corner grocery store in Germany into an international supermarket chain.

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Theo and Karl Albrecht turned their mother’s corner grocery store in Germany into an international supermarket chain.
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ALDI Einkauf GmbH & Co. oHG via Getty Images

The family is notoriously secretive, and little is known about Theo and Karl Albrecht, as they never granted interviews or made public statements about their wealth or businesses before their deaths in 2010 and 2014.

Citing her will, published on Tuesday by the German newspaper Bild, The Guardian reported that Cäcilie Albrecht referred to the family’s frugal philosophy, saying: “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.”

She said Berthold Albrecht had expressed concerns about his children’s understanding of the family’s hard work, according to The Guardian.

Read more: 13 things you never knew about Aldi, the German grocery chain that’s coming straight for Walmart and Kroger

“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,” she said in her will, according to the newspaper.

The Guardian said that some family members had shunned Babette Albrecht because of her spending, including on art and vintage cars, and her well-connected lifestyle, including an appearance on a German reality-TV competition.

Babette Albrecht in the studio audience of the celebrity dance competition

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Babette Albrecht in the studio audience of the celebrity dance competition “Let’s Dance” in March 2018.
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Rolf Vennenbernd/picture alliance via Getty Images

Aldi Süd now operates in the US, the UK, Ireland, China, and Australia, while Aldi Nord is in Belgium, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, and Spain.

The Albrecht family also owns Trader Joe’s, the US discount grocer with nearly 500 stores and $13 billion in annual revenue.

Cäcilie Albrecht sat on the board of the Markus Foundation, which holds 61% of Aldi Nord’s shares, until she died, The Guardian reported.