Theo Albrecht, the secretive co-founder of Germany's worldwide discount supermarket chain Aldi, a co-owner of Trader Joe's in the United States and one of Europe's richest men, has died at age 88.
The retail empire he built with his brother Karl won over German consumers with their no-frills, super-cheap offers, making billionaires of the pair and spawning imitation "hard-discount" stores across Europe.
The company's Aldi Nord division said in a statement that Mr Albrecht was the driving force behind Aldi's internationalisation, expanding stores to France, Spain, Portugal, Poland and the United States, among other nations.
The company said he died on Saturday in his home city of Essen, but gave no cause of death.
Even that statement marked unusual openness for a company known for its extreme secrecy. It is believed his funeral has already been held.
When Forbes featured the brothers in 1992 as two of the world's richest men, the magazine had to use silhouettes rather than photographs to illustrate the article since no pictures of them had been published in many years.
The German Retail Federation said the country had lost one of its greatest entrepreneurs. "There are only a few people who have stamped their mark on an entire business sector of the economy. Theo Albrecht achieved just that," the Federation's managing director, Stefan Genth, said in a statement.
Mr Albrecht and his elder brother both served as German soldiers in the Second World War before returning home to Essen and taking over a grocery store their parents owned. They flourished as the German economy, in shambles after the war, came back to life in what is often called the "economic miracle".
The first Aldi stores - an acronym standing for "Albrecht Discount" - opened in the early 1960s under the motto: "Concentrating on the basics: a limited selection of goods for daily needs."
Aldi now has more than 4,000 outlets in Germany alone, where it is known for its no-frills shopping environment, streamlined processes and a limited range of discount products.