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Karstadt to name new boss

October 19, 2014

Loss-making department store chain Karstadt is set to name its third chief executive in a year. Store closures and job losses are also on the table.

Bildergalerie Kaufhäuser Karstadt-Stammhaus in Wismar
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Karstadt is set to name Stephan Fanderl, a former manager at German supermarket chain Rewe, as its third chief within 12 months, according to a report by Reuters. He is currently head of Karstadt's supervisory board which is due to meet later this week.

Former IKEA boss Eva-Lotta Sjöstedt only lasted a few months in the job before stepping down in July. She said a "close examination" of the business and a detailed look at the numbers led her to decide there wasn't a path forward for her plan.

Austrian real estate investor Rene Benko became the chain's second owner in four years when he paid a token euro to former owner, billionaire Nicolas Berggruen, for the chain in August. Benko's Signa Retail said at the time it would start a "renovation strategy" for the retailer which was was bought out of bankruptcy in 2010.

Benko, 37, became one of the biggest property investors in Vienna when he acquired two former banking headquarters, and converted them into luxury hotels and stores. Co-investors in Benko's group of companies are Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz and Greek businessman George Economou.

Karstadt owns the KaDeWe luxury department store in Berlin but has seen sales fall to rival chain Kaufhof in recent times.

German tabloid newspaper Bild am Sonntag also reported that 23 of the 83 existing Karstadt stores may close, citing an internal document.

The new owners have presented plans to divide the remaining stores into two categories: one for "shopping-entertainment" in the major German cities, and another of smaller town department stores.

Other newspaper reports in Germany have suggested Benko's plan will include the loss of 2,000 out of the current 17,000 jobs at Karstadt.

Reports that Karstadt and Kaufhof - who both manage about a hundred stores in Germany - might merge have been rejected by Kaufhof's owners, Metro. They dismissed Benko's previous bid for Kaufhof as too low.

Built in the 1920s, the Karstadt in Berlin's Hermannplatz was the biggest department store in Europe.

jm/nm (Reuters, AFP, dpa)