Berggruen To Make Bid for Karstadt

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Billionaire Nicolas Berggruen has made an offer to buy insolvent department store chain Karstadt a week before an extended deadline for bids runs out, A spokesman for the investor said on Friday.

Until Berggruen’s offer, European buyout firm Triton was the only bidder to emerge.

Berggruen Holdings is a private equity firm founded in 1986 with a social and cultural investment focus, according to its website.

Berggruen, dubbed the homeless billionaire for living in hotels after giving up most of his possessions, has a diverse investment strategy from injecting cash into Spanish media group Pisa to the restoration of Berlin restaurant Cafe Moskau.

Karstadt was part of German tourism and retail group Arcandor (AROG.DE) that filed for insolvency in June last year.

Karstadt department stores can be found in the center of virtually any large German city, and the chain’s collapse during the 2009 recession made it the best known company to fall victim in a wave of bankruptcies.

Parent Arcandor AG imploded after management failed to extract a state bailout last year just after cash-strapped German carmaker Opel was rescued by the German government.

Many observers blame Arcandor’s failure on long-time Chief Executive Thomas Middelhoff, who divested all of Karstadt’s properties in sale-and-leaseback deals with several real estate firms, one of which counted Middelhoff as an investor.

The leasing rates were in some cases so punitive that many believed they were a key catalyst of Arcandor’s financial problems.

(Reporting by Alexander Huebner and Nicola Leske)