Inside secretive Aldi billionaires’ dark past
Aldi is one of Australia's best-loved supermarket chains, winning over shoppers with its insanely popular special buys, cheap-as-chips groceries and kooky middle-aisle products.
It also regularly leads most-trusted lists, trailing just behind Bunnings in Roy Morgan's most recent poll released in November.
And the company has also been a global hit, with 10,000 stores now serving millions of people across three continents.
It has made its founding family billionaires in the process - but despite their incredible wealth and privilege, the Albrecht family has also been plagued by a series of devastating scandals over the decades.
ALDI IS BORN
The grocery juggernaut was born in 1913 and started out as a humble corner store in Essen in Germany and owned by Karl and Anna Albrecht.
Their sons, Theo and Karl, took over after World War II and shifted their focus to non-perishables which were in demand in post-war Germany.
They focused on no-frills items which were sold cheaply and shunned advertising, renaming the store Aldi - short for Albrecht Discount - to reflect their business model.
During the following decades it expanded into a popular chain and in 1960 it was split into two companies, Aldi Süd, which serves German's south and was led by Karl.
The second, Aldi Nord, was run by Theo in the north after the brothers supposedly argued about whether to sell cigarettes or not.
It eventually spread across the globe, opening its first Australian store in Sydney in 2001.
As Aldi took off and made the Albrecht brothers a fortune, it also made them a target.
In 1971, Theo Albrecht was kidnapped at gunpoint and held for ransom, with criminals Heinz-Joachim Ollenburg and Paul Kron demanding seven million Deutschmarks, or almost $AU3 million.
The kidnappers kept him hidden in a cupboard for 17 days and during that time, he reportedly haggled over the ransom money, according to Mr Ollenberg himself.
The famously frugal grocery baron was eventually released, and went on to famously claim the ransom as a tax deduction after arguing it was a business expense.
The abductor also claimed the majority of the cash also went missing, sparking endless rumours and conspiracy theories.
But the trauma of the kidnapping pushed both brothers into notoriously reclusive lives. After his death in 2010 at age 88, the Sydney Morning Herald cited German paparazzo Franz Ruch, who claimed they both "used to drive home in separate cars and varied the route each day".
Neither commented publicly after 1971 and very few photographs of them exist.
In the 1970s, the founder of Aldi rival Kaufland, Dieter Schwarz, was also reportedly threatened by kidnappers.
It caused the German grocery billionaire to adopt a similarly reclusive lifestyle to Mr Albrecht, leading him to be dubbed a "phantom" by the press.
At the time of his death, Theo Albrecht was the 31st richest person in the world according to Forbes, with a net worth of $16.7 billion.
He was survived by his wife Cäcilie, who died in 2018, and their two sons Berthold, who died in 2012, and Theo Jr.
When brother Karl died at age 94 in 2014, he was the world's 23rd richest person with a $25 billion fortune.
Karl's son and daughter, Karl Jr. and Beate, inherited billions but are also famously reclusive.
But it's not the only scandal to rock the Albrecht family over the years.
After Berthold's death, his widow Babette allegedly angered her in-laws by going on a multimillion-dollar spending spree, snapping up art and classic cars.
In 2014, Theo Jr attacked his sister-in-law in a widely-reported letter, claiming she was "a burden on our company" for refusing to "subordinate your private lifestyle to the interest of our group".
Then in 2016 he went directly to the media, claiming her spending was harming Aldi's business and telling Stern magazine: "The Albrecht name requires a modest lifestyle".
The same year, it was also revealed that Berthold's will sought to exclude his wife and children from running Aldi Nord, which Babette fought in court, according to Business Insider.
The feud escalated after Cäcilie Albrecht's death in 2018, after her will accused Babette and her five children - who have never been named - of using more than $157 million to finance their lavish lifestyles.
She also sought to exclude them from future business decisions.
"With this document I undertake to ensure the preservation of the philosophy of our family, which is to serve the consortium Aldi Nord and to foster this, at the same time as setting aside self-interests and practising a modest and abstemious way of life," she said in the will made public by German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.
She said her son Berthold had also voiced concerns about his wife and children's behaviour.
"Berthold himself said when he was alive that he had considerable doubts as to the suitability of his children to respect the life's work of my husband who, with my support, built the consortium Aldi Nord, and to serve it with respect and with responsibility towards its thousands of employees," she wrote in the will heard in an Essen court in February.
Babette and her children have denied any wrongdoing.
She has been dubbed the "merry widow" by the German press due to her appearance on a German reality television program as well as her attendance at society events and interviews with the media.