An heir to the Aldi and Trader Joe's empire has sued his mother and sisters, saying they embezzled millions of euros from a trust fund

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Babette Albrecht Aldi Babette Albrecht, the mother of Nicolay Albrecht, who is suing her and other members of his family.

  • The grandson of one of Aldi’s founders is suing his mother and at least two of his sisters, claiming they embezzled millions from a family trust.
  • Nicolay Albrecht said the family withdrew millions of euros from the Jakobus Stiftung, which controls 19.5% of Aldi Nord’s shares. Aldi Nord covers around half of the discount grocer’s 10,000 stores, and acquired Trader Joe’s in 1979.
  • The Jakobus Stiftung has four board members, and three of these are family.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

An heir to the Aldi discount grocery empire is suing his close family, accusing them of embezzling millions of euros.

Nicolay Albrecht, the grandson of one of Aldi’s founders, filed a criminal complaint against his mother, at least two of his sisters, and their lawyers, Germany newspaper die Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.

In his one-page criminal complaint, Nicolay said the family illegally withdrew millions of euros from the Jakobus Stiftung, one of the three foundations that hold his side of the family’s shares in the Aldi Nord group. Aldi Nord owns just under half of Aldi’s global stores as well as Trader Joe’s — the rest of the grocery chain’s stores are owned by Aldi Süd, including its ones in the UK and China.

Aldi has more than 10,000 stores in 20 countries, with its biggest footprints in the US and Germany. It turns over more than 50 billion euros ($59 billion) a year.

The report in die Süddeutsche Zeitung said Albrecht was suing all four of his sisters — but a lawyer for the family confirmed to Business Insider that action was being taken against four people in total.

Brothers Karl and Theo Albrecht founded Aldi from their mother’s small corner shop in Essen, Germany in the aftermath of the Second World War. In 1961, they split the business into two divisions – Karl controlled Aldi Süd, and Nicolay’s grandfather Theo took over Aldi Nord, which acquired US discount chain Trader Joe’s in 1979.

In 2012, Forbes estimated the two brothers’ combined value at $17.8 billion.

Family didn’t follow court orders

Three foundations hold Aldi Nord’s capital and control its investments, including the Jakobus Stiftung, which in 2017 controlled 19.5% of Aldi Nord’s shares. Theo’s second son, Berthold, Nicolay’s father, changed the make-up of the Jakobus Stiftung in 2010 so that only two family members could sit on the four-person board, compared to the previous three, meaning that the family could no longer control its activities. 

After Berthold’s death in 2012, his children, including Nicolay, and his widow Babette, Nicolay’s mother, refused to accept this arrangement and took legal action against it, arguing that he had diminished responsibility due to a critical illness. Multiple courts ruled against the family. 

In 2019, a German court ruled that the family had to reduce its presence on the Jakobus Stiftung board, as stipulated by Berthold before his death. But later that year, the region’s authority that supervises foundations said the family had not followed the court’s ruling, and still controlled the board, investigations by Business Insider Germany found on Friday.

A letter the authority sent to the foundation said that one of the daughters’ activity on the board “lacks legal approval,” Business Insider Germany reporterd. The letter also warned the trust not to make any further payments to its benefactors until the board’s make-up was changed.

Despite this, the family still made a payout totalling tens of millions of euros last winter – a regular practise for the family, the report said.

Nicolay has now accused his sisters of taking advantage of this position to pay themselves millions of euros from the family trust, and his mother of benefiting from the dividends after his father’s death.

Henning Hadeler, representing Babette and her daughters, confirmed to Business Insider that legal action is being taken against four people and that it relates to allegations of embezzlement. He said that the review of the criminal complaint is ongoing, and that he couldn’t give any further information at this time.

Lawyers representing Nicolay did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment. Aldi Nord said that it was unable to comment on matters related to the Jakobus Stiftung.

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