Old and new owners: Nicolas Berggruen of Berggruen Holdings (l.) and René Benko, founder of the Signa Group and chairman of the Signa Holding GmbH Advisory Board
Old and new owners: Nicolas Berggruen of Berggruen Holdings (l.) and René Benko, founder of the Signa Group and chairman of the Signa Holding GmbH Advisory Board
Last Friday, Austrian real estate corporation Signa Retail GmbH announced to fully takeover the German department store giant Karstadt Warenhaus GmbH of Berggruen Holdings. The takeover – without any purchasing price to the Berggruen Holding - was scheduled for the beginning of this week. However, the cartel authority has not yet agreed to the acquisition.

This also caused the Karstadt board of directors meeting, originally scheduled for today, to be deferred. Dr. Stephan Fanderl, chairman of the board of directors, said: “We will kick-off the rehabilitation of the Karstadt Warenhaus GmbH in a quick and determined manner. However we cannot anticipate the decision of the cartel authority. Therefore, a new meeting can only be scheduled after the agreement to the takeover by the Federal Cartel Authority and the reelection of the shareholders’ representatives.”

During the past months, Signa, who is already renting several Karstadt branches, has invested a three-digit million amount into the department store group and also extended its trade credit insurance for the Karstadt Warenhaus GmbH by another year with unchanged conditions.
Wolfram Keil, managing director of the Signa Retail GmbH
Wolfram Keil, managing director of the Signa Retail GmbH


Wolfram Keil, managing director of the Signa Retail GmbH, called the takeover a “logic consequence” with regards to Karstadt’s precarious situation. He highlighted that the most important next steps would now be to create calmness and to present a sustainable rehabilitation strategy in the relevant boards and discuss it with labor representatives and adopt it. “The Karstadt Warenhaus GmbH needs full concentration for the common cause and it needs to exit the media and the back-breaking public discussion. Therefore we will not report on any developments or carry out further media announcement but rather exclusively concentrate on the cause internally,” Keil concluded.

Meanwhile, speculations about the future of the 83 Karstadt branches, 28 Karstadt Sports branches and the three premium houses KaDeWe in Berlin, Oberpollinger in Munich und Alsterhaus in Hamburg are ramping up. From the closure of numerous unprofitable branches to the transformation of selected Karstadt department stores into premium houses to a fusion of Karstadt with its German competitor, Cologne-based Galeria Kaufhof GmbH into a “German Department Store AG”, rumors are manifold.

And also the first staff changes have taken place after the announcement of the takeover. Karstadt’s labor director and chief human resources officer Kai-Uwe Weitz will leave the enterprise “in mutual agreement”, as was announced on Tuesday, August 19. On an interim basis, Karstadt CEO and chief finance officer, Miguel Müllenbach, will take over Weitz’ responsibilities. Weitz and Müllenbach had together taken over the management of Karstadt after former CEO Eva-Lotta Sjøstedt quit her position in July after only a few months on duty.