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 Karl-Erivan Haub after his failure to return from a ski excursion in the Swiss Alps on Saturday, a company spokeswoman told AFP.
Haub's 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.
The search for the 58-year-old magnate is concentrated in the Matterhorn, between the canton of Valais in Switzerland and Italy's Aosta Valley.
According to the Swiss daily Blick, Haub's family raised the alarm after the seasoned skier did not show up for an appointment at his hotel in Zermatt after leaving for a solo run on Saturday.
"We started the search on Sunday morning, after being informed that the skier had not returned," Zermatt cantonal police spokesman Markus Rieder told AFP.
Rescuers are battling driving snow and howling winds as they keep up their search for Haub, one of Germany's richest people.
"The search resumed this morning, but because of bad weather, Air Zermatt helicopters have trouble flying over the area. There are also experienced rescuers who have used the lifts and are doing foot searches," added Rieder.
The search area, Rieder explained, covers thousands of hectares, while operations are coordinated with the Italian rescuers.
Operations on the Italian side of have also been hampered after a wave of harsh weather hit the north of the country, said Delfino Viglione, an alpine rescuer for the Aosta Valley, lowering the chances of a rescue.
"The weather conditions, with gusts of wind and snow, are complicating the task for rescuers, who are dealing with poor visibility," Viglione told AFP.
"The weather should improve at the end of the week, but it is clear that the more time passes, the worse our chances of finding him alive at such altitudes. The only hope is that he has found shelter."
Viglione said that rescuers were trying to track his mobile phone, but that "it is likely that the battery has died since his disappearance".
According to the Swiss media, Haub had taken the Petit Cervin ski lift on Saturday around 08:30 (0630 GMT) and has not given any sign of life since.
Haub set off at a height of 3,800 metres (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.
"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.
He added: "Please cross your fingers for us to find my brother quickly."