History repeating itself

History repeating itself

In The Prisoner and the Penguin I tell the story of the Dassler brothers, Adolf (Adi) and Rudolph (Rudi), who in the 1920s, worked successfully together to build the Dassler Brothers Sports Shoe Company, operating out, of all places, their mother’s laundry room in the small German town of Herzogenaurach.

However during and then after the Second World War tension between the two brothers and their respective wives rose and finally they fell out spectacularly. They went their separate ways to found Adidas (Adi – Das) and, what was originally Ru-Da, and later became Puma. Perhaps though their ways weren’t quite so separate, as both brands were headquartered in the same town, Herzogenaurach.


Now I had thought that the idea of two German brothers first building a business together, then splitting and each building a successful new business was likely to be unique.

However I have just finished reading ‘Management in 10 words’ by Terry Leahy, long time CEO of Tesco to discover that perhaps lightning can strike twice at least in Germany. In his chapter “Compete” Terry Leahy briefly tells the story of Aldi.

Aldi had begun life as a single store in Essen, Germany where it was run by a miner’s wife. In 1946 her two sons, Theo and Karl Albrecht first took over the store and then together rapidly built the business.  However in 1960 with about 300 stores now in the chain the two brothers fell out; supposedly about whether or not they should sell cigarettes at the checkout.

The brothers couldn’t agree and so split the business into Aldi Nord and Aldi Sud, each brother owning one half. Since then they have kept broadly the same branding and the same business model but operating in different territories …and both have continued to thrive.


This idea that lightning can and has struck twice in Germany seems too good to be true so I going to investigate some more and perhaps write it up as a candidate for a volume two.  

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