In the competitive world of supermarkets, profit margins are often dictated on the strategic initiatives of those in charge of the company. In the case of international giant Aldi’s, that philosophy has always been based on a no-frills approach that helps create high traffic due to low prices.
That helped make one of the company’s co-founders, Theo Albrecht, a billionaire, though the tight-fisted approach espoused by the business has occasionally kept the supermarket from adapting to changing times. One example can be seen in the fact that barcode scanners weren’t seen in any Aldi’s stores until the early 2000’s due to the expense in changing things over.
That example helps illustrate the current irony taking place in Germany, where purchases of classic cars and works of art have become a point of contention in a family battle of control for one facet of the company.
Aldi Nord has stores in nine countries in Europe, including the company’s native Germany. Due to previous trusts created by Albrecht to keep control of the company after his death, his son, Theo, Jr., is attempting to use what he believes are excessive purchases by his widowed sister-in-law, Babette, against her to gain that control.
In addition to those personal purchases, Babette believes that the company must start making extensive changes in its approach, an idea rejected by Theo. Some of those changes have already taken place, though they’ve largely been aesthetic, with most of the focus going toward lighting issues and space concerns.
The split has been nasty enough that Theo even did something unthinkable for the secretive family by going public with the dispute. With an estimated $19.5 billion family fortune at stake, this battle has the potential to develop into a lengthy and ugly legal battle.