BERLIN — The family of a German billionaire has given up hope of finding him alive a week after he went missing in the Swiss Alps, his company said Friday.
Karl-Erivan Haub, the 58-year-old heir to the Tengelmann retail empire, 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 Saturday morning 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.
Tengelmann said in a statement Friday on the family's behalf that, after days "in the extreme climate conditions of a glacier area, there is no longer any probability that Karl-Erivan Haub survived."
It said the search for Haub's body will continue and the company will pay all costs for that.
"This accident is a terrible tragedy both for the Haub family and the whole family company, and one that is incomprehensible for everybody," Tengelmann spokeswoman Sieglinde Schuchardt said.
The search for Haub on both sides of the Swiss-Italian border involved three helicopters, ground patrols and avalanche rescue teams, with up to 60 people at its peak.
It was complicated by bad weather and the fact that it wasn't clear exactly where Haub was going. Rescuers were combing a huge area under the Matterhorn and some suspected that he might have fallen into one of the region's many glacial crevasses.
Haub — who was born in Tacoma, Washington — and his brother Christian have led Tengelmann 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.
On Wednesday, rescue officials had said there was still a very slight hope for Haub if he had managed to keep himself warm in the cold Alpine conditions.