Barbara Geier: Money makes Germany go round
For this month’s column, I thought I’d share some interesting information with you. Or wouldn’t you want to know who the richest German is? Thought so. In particular, as it is someone that the good people of the UK can relate to. According to the latest German billionaire ranking, none other than the founder of Lidl is at the top spot, showing that it pays to give the Germans, notoriously demanding customers, what they want; good products at cheap prices.
But let’s look at some more detail: Lidl supremo Dieter Schwarz is 83 years-old and, according to Germany’s super rich ranking compiled yearly by business publication manager magazine, currently has an estimated fortune of 36 billion euros. He is being described as “quiet and modest” and still intervenes in day-to-day business when needed. Which was the case in recent years, with Covid and all kinds of other crises. To tackle logistics issues and secure the supply of his businesses, he founded his own container shipping company, as you do, and has also expanded into paper production, to counter paper shortage issues, as well as into food manufacturing.
By the way, it is not just Lidl we are talking about here, in terms of what Dieter owns, but also the Kaufland supermarket chain, which is part of the Schwarz Group. manager magazine speaks of altogether almost 13,500 stores and steady sales growth for years, recently reaching 133.6 billion euros. Ah, Dieter has done well for himself. As have some other discounter supremos which have also become a household name in the UK and are the actual inventors of the modern supermarket discounter principle. Yes, I’m talking about the Aldi people which are, of course, also in the list. At both places five and eight, which might sound confusing, but Germany actually has two Aldis; known as ‘Aldi North’ and ‘Aldi South’.
Aldi was founded by two brothers, Karl and Theo Albrecht, and the business was split in 1961. No one really knows exactly why, as the Albrecht family is famously secretive. But what we do know is that the ‘Aldi Süd’ family branch is doing a bit better at number five in the ranking with an estimated fortune of 26.5 billion euros compared to the ‘Aldi North’ Albrechts, with 19.2 billion euros. Well, I don’t think we need to feel too sorry for them. I could tell you more about the other billionaires on the list, which unsurprisingly also contain some names related to Germany’s big car brands, BMW and Porsche, but I think I’ll leave it at that and just say cheap food and expensive cars seem to do the trick in Germany…
Barbara Geier is a London-based freelance writer, translator and communications consultant. She is also the face behind www.germanyiswunderbar.com, a German travel and tourism guide and blog that was set up together with UK travel writer Andrew Eames in 2010. Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Discover Germany, Switzerland & Austria.
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