Photo: MBK via flickr
Last week marks the one-year anniversary of Theo Albrecht’s death. He was a billionaire and Germany’s third-richest man, alongside his brother, Karl. Combined, they had amassed a fortune of $40 billion.Theo is also the original investor behind Trader Joe’s. He bought the company from Joe Coulombe in 1979 — who stayed on without a management contract for a decade — and built it into a chain with more than 350 stores and $8 billion in revenue.
According to Fortune, Trader Joe’s is successful for its “low-cost business model: a limited assortment of goods that pared down supply expenses and a minimal level of advertising.” The magazine also says that “management is obsessively secretive. There are no signs with the company’s name or logo at headquarters in Monrovia, about 25 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.”
Little is known about either Albrecht brother, whose last photographs appeared in the 1980s, according to Der Spiegel. Theo lived in near-total seclusion, a circumstance compounded after he was kidnapped for a 17-day stretch in 1971, the magazine reported. The Albrecht family paid 7 million deutsche marks ($4.6 million) in ransom, which was handed over to the assailants by the bishop of Essen. There are only three confirmed public statements from Theo, according to Kraenzle.
The Albrecht family passed along its secretive management style to Trader Joe’s corporate headquarters — and even today the company rarely grants interviews. The discount supermarket chain is still owned by the Albrecht family trust.
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