"Serving the people" tycoon dies

Heinz-Horst Deichmann, one of the post-Second World War German businessmen responsible for the country’s economic revival, has died aged 88. Deichmann started the eponymous retail shoe chain in the mid-1950s, but it was built on a family business his parents had started in 1913.

Today, Deichmann, with its headquarters in Essen, is represented in more than 20 countries around the world, with around 3,500 stores and selling 167 million pairs of shoes a year. Heinz-Horst became a billionaire in the process. A dedicated Christian, he often use to say the company must “serve the people”, and made the remark that when he dies God won’t want to know how many pairs of shoes he had sold, but how good a Christian he had been.

Given the considerable philanthropic work Heinz-Horst committed himself and his money to, God might not be too disappointed. Numerous charities were set up by the businessman to support the disadvantaged in a host of countries around the world.

Nevertheless, Heinz-Horst was also known for his deal making and business acumen, which laid the foundations of the multi-billionaire dollar business today. In 1999, he passed the leadership of the business over to his son and third generation Heinrich.

Many of the family businesses that dominate the German economy today were set up after World War II. Supermarket group Aldi, also based in Essen, was founded in 1946.