April 11, 2018 / 4:56 PM / 9 days ago

UPDATE 1-Alpine rescuer sees "minimal chance" for missing German businessman

(Recasts with news conference)

By Arnd Wiegmann

ZERMATT, Switzerland, April 11 (Reuters) - Missing German retail boss Karl-Erivan Haub has “a minimal chance” of rescue four days after he failed to return from an off-piste skiing tour in the Alps, a Swiss search official said on Wednesday.

Police were still searching for the experienced skier, who was last seen on Saturday heading off from the Klein Matterhorn cable car station in the Swiss canton of Valais, near the Italian frontier.

The 58-year-old Haub, whose family is among Germany’s wealthiest, has run the Tengelmann group since 2000. The company owns the OBI home improvement chain and KiK fashion discounter.

“There are justified chances certainly in the first two to three days,” physician Axel Mann, who leads medical rescue efforts at helicopter operator Air Zermatt, told a news conference. “We currently still see a minimal chance.”

Anjan Truffer, rescue team head in the Swiss resort of Zermatt said: “We had to conclude that, unfortunately, he could be anywhere.”

Haub’s point of departure meant he could have headed in an unknown direction into a 240-square km (90 square mile) area of mountains and glaciers.

Authorities said 23 rescuers and two helicopters were deployed on both sides of the Swiss-Italian border, down from a peak of 60 rescuers and three helicopter patrols.

The Handelsblatt business daily cited a letter to Tengelmann employees from his brother Christian saying the family had not given up hope, noting that Karl-Erivan was an experienced skier and mountaineer.

Karl-Erivan Haub is the fifth generation of the family to run the business which was founded in 1867 as an importer of coffee and tea. Karl-Erivan’s father, Erivan Haub, died last month on his U.S. ranch. Forbes magazine estimated his fortune at $6.4 billion. (Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi and Oliver Hirt in Zurich and Steve Scherer in Rome Writing by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi and Michael Nienaber Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and David Stamp)

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