Billionaire Shoe Retailer Heinz-Horst Deichmann Dies At 88
A longtime member of the Forbes Billionaires club, Deichmann, who ranked as the 359th wealthiest person on the planet in 2014 with a net worth of $4.2 billion, controlled Europe’s largest shoe retailer, Deichmann-Schuhe SE, with over $6 billion in estimated 2013 sales. The company, which operates 3,500 stores including the Rack Room Shoes and Off Broadway chains in the U.S., sold 167 million pairs of shoes worldwide last year. His son, Heinrich, who took over in 1999, runs the company today.
Deichmann’s family has been in the shoe business for a century. Heinz-Horst’s parents opened a small cobblers’ shop in 1913. When his father died at age 52 in 1940, the then fourteen-year-old boy had to help out more. Even while studying medicine and theology in Bonn and Dusseldorf, he continued to help his mother as she struggled to keep the small business afloat. When the company opened its first shop in Dusseldorf, he transported the shoes to the new location himself on his way back to school. In 1956, Deichmann left his orthopedic practice to concentrate on the family business full-time. He gave the reins to his son years ago.
Deichmann viewed his wealth as a mandate for social responsibility. A committed philanthropist, he was known for generous employee benefits and involvement in various humanitarian groups—perhaps most notably “wortundtat,” a program initially devised to help leprosy victims in India. The program now provides a wide range of medical treatments to over 130,000 people in India, Tanzania, Moldova, Greece and Germany.
He was decorated by the German government for his philanthropic work and was named honorary consul of India for the German state of Nordrhein-Westfalen in 2000. Heinz-Horst and his late wife, Ruth, made significant contributions to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, including math and science buildings and the H.H. Deichmann Chair of Business Ethics. He is survived by his son and three daughters.