Billionaire Metro co-founder Beisheim commits suicide

Mon Feb 18, 2013 2:20pm EST
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DUESSELDORF, Germany (Reuters) - German billionaire Otto Beisheim, one of the founders of retail group Metro (MEOG.DE: Quote), committed suicide after being diagnosed with an incurable illness.

Beisheim, 89, had lost hope after his diagnosis and was found dead at his home near the Tegernsee lake in Bavaria on Monday morning, his company said.

He had helped introduce to Germany in the 1960s the concept of "cash and carry", warehouse-type shops where trade customers such as hotels and restaurants go to buy products in bulk.

The Metro group, now the world's fourth-largest retailer, described him as a "pioneer".

"With his self-service cash-and-carry concept, he revolutionized the sector in the mid 1960s," Metro Chief Executive Olaf Koch said in a statement.

The group's operations include the Kaufhof department stores familiar to German cities, supermarkets, consumer electronics stores and cash and carries in Moldova and Japan. It had turnover of 66.7 billion euros ($89 billion) in 2012, almost half of which came from the cash and carry division.

Last year was a tough one for the group, which issued a profit warning, lost its place in the Dax index of leading German shares and received downgrades to its credit ratings.

Declining spending by shoppers in Europe worried about the euro zone debt crisis and the rise of internet retailers have also contributed to its shares losing 15 percent of their value over the past year.

A spokeswoman for the Beisheim Group said there were no plans to sell the billionaire's near-10 percent stake in Metro. He was the third-largest shareholder behind the Haniel and Schmidt-Ruthenbeck families, which together own 45.78 percent.   Continued...