A German court on Friday officially declared billionaire Karl-Erivan Haub dead, more than three years after the head of retail group Tengelmann went missing in the Swiss Alps.
Haub, who was 58, was training for a ski mountaineering race when he disappeared under Switzerland's famous Matterhorn peak, located on the southern border with Italy.
He was last seen on the morning of April 7, 2018, as he headed up a mountain lift with skis and a daypack, and was reported missing to police the following morning after he failed to show up at his hotel in the Swiss resort of Zermatt.
Haub's family gave up hope of finding him alive after a week and the search for him was officially called off in October 2018.
In recent months, there were media reports raising doubts about the death of the experienced skier. However, the district court in Cologne where Haub lived did not find them to be provable.
"Opinions to the contrary presented on the file are based on possibilities, assumptions and non-verifiable documents," the court stated. They are not sufficient "to remove the serious doubts about the continued existence of the missing person".
The court said it was satisfied by the evidence and it has now formally declared him dead, with a time of death as midnight on April 7, 2018.
Family dispute over power in the company
Erivan Haub, the former patriarch of the Tengelmann Group and Karl-Erivan's father, died the month before that on 6 March 2018 in Pinedale, Wyoming, USA at the age of 85.
Karl-Erivan's younger brother Christian took over sole management of Tengelmann on 17 April 2018. The two had run Tengelmann together since 2000.
Since then there's been a family dispute over the redistribution of power in the multi-billion dollar retail group, which includes the textile discounter Kik and the hardware store chain Obi.
The Tengelmann Group had belonged to Karl-Erivan Haub, current boss Christian Haub and their other brother Georg Haub. Christian, Georg and the family businesses applied for Karl-Erivan to be declared dead in October last year. Georg Haub, however, withdrew his application in mid-January.
The application for a declaration of death was initially sharply criticized by Karl-Erivan's wife Katrin Haub. In early 2021, she changed her mind and joined the application along with her children.
Then in April, the heirs of Karl-Erivan Haub finally agreed to sell their shares in Tengelmann Warenhandels-KG to Christian Haub.
The lawyers for either side, Mark Binz and Peter Gauweiler, said there had been "very tough negotiations". They aim to "notarize and execute the agreed share purchase in May".
The lawyers did not provide any information about the purchase price. However, according to his lawyer, Christian Haub had already submitted an offer of 1.1 billion euros for the company shares of his missing brother at the end of last year. The auditing company KPMG estimated a company value of around 4 billion euros.
An appeal against the decision of the court can be lodged within one month. In addition to the applicants, everyone "who has a legal interest in the annulment of the declaration of death or in the correction of the time of death" is entitled to do so, according to the decision.
Karl-Erivan Haub was born on March 2, 1960 in Tacoma, Washington and was a German-U.S. dual citizen.