Karl-Erivan Haub (R) of the retailer group Tengelmann and German Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) visit a Tengelmann supermarket during an election campaign rally in the western town of Muelheim, Germany, August 20, 2009. (Reuters/Federico Gambarini)
The billionaire chief of Germany's sprawling Tengelmann retail group has gone missing while skiing in the Swiss Alps, the company said Wednesday, although searchers have not given up hope of finding him.
"Search teams on the scene are doing everything they can" to find 58-year-old Karl-Erivan Haub after his failure to return from a ski excursion Saturday, a company spokeswoman told AFP.
"My brother is a very experienced ski mountaineer, so despite the time that has passed since (his disappearance) we aren't giving up hope of finding him soon," Christian Haub, who jointly manages the Tengelmann group with Karl-Erivan, wrote in a letter to employees seen by German business newspaper Handelsblatt.
"Please cross your fingers for us to find my brother quickly," he asked.
"The family has made unlimited resources available to the search teams," mountain rescue leader for the Aosta valley Adriano Favre told Swiss newspaper Blick, "but in these conditions they're useless," pointing to bad weather on the Italian side of the mountains.
Haub set off at a height of 3,800 meters (12,470 feet) on the Klein Matterhorn, a glacier-shrouded peak that is the highest in Europe reachable by cable car.
Blick reported that he was training for the "Patrouille", a ski mountaineering race organised by the Swiss army slated this year for April 17.
The Tengelmann group owns a number of retail chains and other businesses in Germany, including the Kik low-cost clothing stores and OBI home improvement outlets.
Its success has lifted the family into 265th place on Forbes magazine's global rich list, and 20th place in Germany.