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Karl Albrecht, reclusive billionaire who co-founded German supermarket chain Aldi, dead at 94

BERLIN - Karl Albrecht, co-founder of the Aldi grocery store empire and one of the world's richest people, has died in the western German city of Essen. He was 94.

Essen's city hall told The Associated Press that Albrecht was buried Monday in a family plot in a small ceremony in the city's Bredeney district where he lived. Aldi's press office said Albrecht died July 16.

"He created a corporate culture of mutual respect, he trusted his employees and their talents, and he gave them a chance to use them," said Aldi spokeswoman Kirsten Gess in a statement. "Our sympathies are with his family."

Albrecht and his brother Theo, who died in 2010, both worked in their parents' grocery store as they were growing up.

After both serving as German soldiers in World War II, the two took over the business and began a rapid expansion. By early 1960 they were operating some 300 stores.

After splitting the company into two, the brothers in 1962 rebranded the group Aldi — a contraction of "Albrecht Discount" — with Karl Albrecht leading Aldi South, and Theo Albrecht taking Aldi North. They still worked together, using their combined bargaining power to negotiate lower purchasing prices.

Their motto was "concentrating on the basics: a limited selection of goods for daily needs" and their formula sold well.

Today the group has thousands of stores in 17 countries in Europe, North America and Australia.

Both brothers shunned publicity throughout their lives, and when Forbes featured them in 1992 as two of the world's richest men, it had to use silhouettes to illustrate the article because no pictures of them had been published for years.

Albrecht was ranked No. 24 on this year's Forbes list of the world's richest people with an estimated net worth of $25.9 billion.

The Canadian Press

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