Dieter Schwarz owns Schwarz Group, Europe’s largest food retailer. The Neckarsulm, Germany-based company controls the Lidl and Kaufland supermarket chains, and had revenue of 154.1 billion euros ($162.4 billion) in the year to February 2023. He controls the group through Dieter Schwarz Stiftung, an LLC with a charitable purpose.
The majority of Schwarz’s fortune derives from his control of Schwarz Group, which operates the Lidl and Kaufland supermarket chains.
The company had sales of 154.1 billion euros ($162.4 billion) in the year to February 2023, according to the company’s website. Schwarz Group is the biggest food retailer in Europe, according to consultancy Retail-Index.
The valuation of Lidl is based on the average enterprise value-to-sales multiples of three publicly traded peer companies: Carrefour, Sainsburys and Tesco. The valuation of Kaufland is based on the average enterprise value-to-sales multiples of two peers: Carrefour and Casino.
The group’s waste management and recycling business, PreZero, is valued using reported financial results and the average enterprise value-to-sales multiple of four publicly traded peers: Veolia Environnement SA, Befesa SA, Seche Environnement SA and Derichebourg SA.
Schwarz controls his assets through Dieter Schwarz Stiftung, a limited liability company with a charitable purpose. Schwarz gave Hermann-Josef Hoffmann power of attorney over the company in 1996 and shares of Lidl and Kaufland were transferred into the entity in 1999, to protect the companies’ independence and long-term survival.
Schwarz’s operating company — of which he is an honorary board member with veto power — controls all of the Lidl and Kaufland voting rights and decides how much money goes to the stiftung, according to the company. Under German law, the stiftung is tax-exempt as long as a stated public benefit purpose is maintained. Because of this flexibility, the value of Lidl and Kaufland shares is counted as Schwarz’s personal fortune.
Stefanie Geiges, a spokesperson for Dieter Schwarz Stiftung, declined to comment on the net worth analysis.
Dieter Schwarz was born in Heilbronn, Germany, in 1939, to Josef Schwarz and his wife. Schwarz’s father had co-founded the Lidl & Schwarz grocery in 1930, which was destroyed during the Second World War and rebuilt after the war ended.
Schwarz joined his father’s company after finishing high school. He set out to replicate the supermarket discount model created by competitors Aldi Nord and Aldi Sued, which were founded by brothers Karl and Theo Albrecht. He opened the first Lidl discount store in Ludwigshafen, Germany, in 1973. Unable to rename the grocery chain ‘Schwarzmarkt’ — which means black market in German — he purchased the rights to the Lidl name for 1,000 deutsche marks, about $500 at the time.
Following his father’s death in 1977, Schwarz took over as Lidl’s chairman and CEO. He opened discount chain Kaufland in 1984 and began expanding both chains throughout Europe in the late ’80s and ’90s. He left his management role in 1999. To secure Lidl and Kaufland’s future independence, he put 99.9% of the companies’ shares in a namesake foundation and 100% of the voting rights in a separate operating company. He lives in Heilbronn with his wife, Franziska. The couple has two daughters.
- 1930 Father Josef Schwarz starts fruit wholesaler Lidl & Co.
- 1939 Born in Heilbronn, Germany.
- 1963 Marries Franziska Weipert; the couple has two daughters.
- 1973 Opens first Lidl discount store in Ludwigshafen, Germany.
- 1977 Father dies; becomes CEO and chairman of the company.
- 1984 Kaufland hypermarket chain started in Neckarsulm.
- 1988 First Lidl store abroad opens in France.
- 1994 Opens first Lidl store in UK.
- 1999 Steps down as CEO and chairman; establishes foundation.
- 2007 Made honorary citizen of Heilbronn for his philanthropic giving.