Search for German billionaire missing in Alps since Saturday

Karl-Erivan W. Haub
The Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) — Authorities in Switzerland and Italy were searching Wednesday for a German billionaire who has been missing in the Alps since the weekend, when he failed to return from a ski excursion on the Matterhorn.

Karl-Erivan Haub, heir to the Tengelmann retail empire, was training for a ski race when he disappeared on Switzerland’s famous peak, located on the border with Italy.

Tengelmann spokeswoman Sieglinde Schuchardt told The Associated Press there was no news yet on the fate of the 58-year-old, who was an experienced skier and mountaineer.

Haub was skiing on his own in an area with glaciers, and could have fallen into a crevasse, said Bruno Jelk, an experienced mountain rescue expert based in Zermatt who has been advising on the search efforts.

“The big problem is it’s not known specifically where he went missing,” Jelk told the AP by phone. “It’s a huge area and there are a lot of possibilities. I’d say he must have fallen into a crevasse but there are a lot of them and it’s hard to know which one.”

He said fresh snow and windy conditions have made it even more difficult for searchers to pick up on any traces of Haub’s path.

Haub’s family raised the alarm after he didn’t show up at his hotel in Zermatt on Saturday afternoon, according to the Swiss newspaper Blick.

The head of mountain rescue services in Italy’s Aosta valley, Adriano Favre, was quoted by Blick as saying that bad weather and high avalanche risk on the Italian side forced a six-person team to interrupt their search Tuesday.

Swiss rescue service Air Zermatt said it had no new information Wednesday afternoon but their search was ongoing. Valais cantonal (state) police planned to release an update later in the day.

Italy’s alpine rescue service was also involved, with a team heading from Teodulo toward Furggen and ending at the Duca of the Abruzzi refuge.

Spokesman Tiziano Trevisan said poor weather conditions were limiting helicopter search options.

Haub — who was born in Tacoma, Washington — and his brother Christian have led the company since 2000. The family’s fortune is estimated at over 3 billion euros ($3.7 billion). Family patriarch, Erivan Haub, died in March at his home in Wyoming.

Tengelmann’s main businesses are the hardware store Obi and clothing retailer KiK. It also has large stakes in the Netto supermarket chain and online retailer Zalando.

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Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this report.

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