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Denner chief dies

Schweri launched six people's initiatives, which were mainly concerned with consumer issues Keystone Archive

Karl Schweri, the Swiss businessman and avid political observer, has died at the age of 84. Schweri is best remembered as the man who founded the low-cost retail chain, Denner.

But the discount stores were only part of a business empire that was made up of numerous companies, including the Franz Carl Weber toy stores.

The board of Rast Holding, the name of the umbrella organisation of his retail empire, announced on Tuesday that the business would stay in the hands of the Schweri family, which will continue to run the company.

As well as his business interests, Schweri was a political observer and activist. He launched no fewer than six people’s initiatives, which were mostly concerned with consumer issues.

He orchestrated a popular vote in 1967 which broke the beer and tobacco cartels in Switzerland and did away with price fixing of other marketable goods.

He was born in Koblenz in Germany in 1917, and by the age of 30 he had left his homeland and had a stake in the Swiss import and export firm, IGA.

Trading was in his blood and after the Second World War, he made his first SFr500,000 ($280,000) by organising 25 million plastic outer shells for Biro ballpoint pens, instead of using conventional steel. With this first capital, Schweri was then instrumental in rebuilding production in Germany of Perlon synthetic filament.

The IGA company went on to take over three other trade firms in 1947 but Schweri was ousted from the board.

Until 1951, he remained the major shareholder in the company and systematically got rid of all the people who had voted him off the board.

In 1969, Schweri transformed the IGA company into Denner, which opened its 100th super discount shop four years later. However, it was not until Schweri acquired and absorbed the Usego Group into his empire following a hostile takeover, that Denner became a viable business to compete seriously with Migros and Coop.

The Denner empire then grew as it acquired Coop’s cut-price arm, Billi-Discount, and branched out into pharmacies, opticians and travel agencies.

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