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Retailer Aldi Taps Funke Executive to Lead International Consolidation

Prefers discount supermarkets to newspapers. Source: PR
Prefers discount supermarkets to newspapers.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Thomas Ziegler will be the third person in a short time to try to consolidate the foreign operations of Aldi, one of the world’s largest supermarket discounters. Can he overcome corporate infighting at Aldi to help it save money and boost profit?

  • Facts

    Facts

    • At his last employer Funke, Mr. Ziegler was considered a strong leader who never adapted to the media business.
    • Aldi Süd now has more sales internationally than it does in Germany.
    • Aldi Süd was founded by Karl Albrecht, one of the two co-founders of the Aldi dynasty and one of Germany’s richest men.
  • Audio

    Audio

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It’s only been eight months since Christian Nienhaus left what was then a three-person management team at the Funke media group, a publisher of regional newspapers and women’s and television magazines based in Essen. Mr. Nienhaus was a member of the top management board.

Now Thomas Ziegler, who came to Funke in 2012 from retail giant Metro, will not renew his contract at Funke the end of the year. Instead, he will be moving to the coordinating council at Aldi Süd, the southern German regional group of the global food discounter Aldi, a spokesperson for the supermarket chain told Handelsblatt.

At Funke, Mr. Ziegler was responsible for finance and had been considered the de facto leader in top management after Mr. Nienhaus’ departure.

During Mr. Ziegler’s tenure, Funke acquired several magazines and two newspapers, the Hamburger Abendblatt and Berliner Morgenpost, from Axel Springer, one of Europe’s largest publishing companies and home of the popular German tabloid Bild. The deal cost Funke €920 million ($1.2 billion).

The position at Aldi Süd has been vacant since December 2013. It’s apparently not an easy job.

The last executive to hold the position, Frank Lutz, a former chief financial officer at MAN, quit after only seven months. Mr. Lutz’s predecessor, Johann Mörwald, also lasted only a short time.

 

Aldi Süd and Aldi Nord-01

 

So Mr. Ziegler is entering difficult territory. Mr. Lutz had been hired by the powerful head of Aldi Süed’s supervisory board, Peter Heister, the son-in-law of the recently deceased Aldi co-founder, Karl Albrecht. Mr. Heister had charged Mr. Lutz with creating a financial holding company in Salzburg to run foreign operations for the discounter, which is headquartered in Mülheim-an-der-Ruhr in northwest Germany.

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