Son sues mother for embezzlement as Aldi heirs’ feud escalates

A feud between the German billionaire heirs to the Aldi and Trader Joe’s retail empire has further escalated after the grandson of one of the two supermarket chain’s founders decided to sue his mother for allegedly embezzling funds from a family trust.

Nicolay Albrecht, grandson of the late Aldi co-founder Theo Albrecht, has pressed charges in Kiel against his mother Babette, three of his sisters and their lawyer, alleging that they improperly withdrew millions of euros from one of the trusts that holds the family fortune, Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported on Thursday.

Aldi, one of the world’s biggest discount supermarket chains, was founded by Essen-based brothers Karl and Theo Albrecht after the second world war. In 1961 the business empire was split into a southern and northern division, Aldi Süd and Aldi Nord, with the latter going on to acquire US retailer Trader Joe’s.

The heirs of Aldi Nord, whose wealth Forbes estimates at $17bn, (£13.1bn) have been openly feuding since the death of Theo Albrecht’s second son Berthold in 2012, whose will limited family members’ power over the boards of the three foundations that hold the company’s capital.

Albrecht’s widow Babette and her children – three daughters and a son born as quadruplets in 1990, and a daughter born in 1992 – tried to challenge the instructions issued in the will in court, but failed. In 2019, Germany’s federal administrative court ruled that the heirs had to reduce their presence on the board of one of the three foundations, the Jakobus Stiftung.

The heirs appear to have so far ignored instructions to change the makeup of the Jakobus foundation: earlier this year the foundation supervisory authority in Schleswig Holstein complained that the family still controlled the foundation’s board.

The latest twist in the Albrecht saga reveals there is also a division among the family that has protested against their father’s will, with son Nikolay accusing his mother and sisters of using their boardroom dominance to improperly pay themselves millions of euros from the family trust.

The legal complaint, which was registered in August, according to Süddeutsche Zeitung, is likely to cast a shadow over the future of the Aldi empire irrespective of whether Nikolay Albrecht succeeds in court, German media speculated on Thursday.

Originally set up to prevent hostile takeovers, the three-part structure of Aldi Nord’s foundations means all three foundations are required to make significant investments, and the retailer could be paralysed as a result.

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