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Secretive supermarket billionaire dies

Theo Albrecht, the highly secretive co-founder of discount retailer Aldi, died on Saturday at 88.

Aldi Nord, the company he headed for half a century, said in a statement that he had died in his hometown of Essen, Germany, but did not give the cause of death.

Albrecht, along with his brother Karl Albrecht, is credited with popularising the discount grocery store concept that made them both billionaires. Their business philosophy was based on their motto: "the best quality at the lowest price."

Despite their business success, both brothers remained fiercely private. The last known photographs of the two are from the early 1980s. Their reclusiveness may be partly due to the fact that Theo Albrecht was kidnapped in 1971 and only released after a ransom was paid 17 days later.

The brothers took over the family grocery store in Essen in 1946 and expanded it with a no frills, "hard-discount" approach to retailing that became Albrecht Discount, Aldi. As the company grew more successful in the 1960s, the brothers decided to split the business in Germany into north and south, with Karl Albrecht managing the south and Theo Albrecht controlling the north. 

According to the statement, the two continued to remain close throughout. Albrecht is credited with driving the international expansion of Aldi Nord across Europe and with the Trader Joe's franchise in the US, but for some years the group has been led by non-family management.

In 2010 Forbes put Theo Albrecht's personal wealth at around $16.7 billion and that of his 90-year-old bother at $23.5 billion.

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