buero.de boss Markus Schön: "The department store is not dead": Why a stationer wants to buy 47 Galeria branches

Up until a week ago, Markus Schön was completely unknown.

buero.de boss Markus Schön: "The department store is not dead": Why a stationer wants to buy 47 Galeria branches

Up until a week ago, Markus Schön was completely unknown. Now he is considered a possible savior for part of the insolvent department store group Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof. The Detmold entrepreneur wants to take over 47 Galeria branches with around 5,500 employees. That would be a significant part of the total of 131 department stores with its 17,000 employees. But: How does a stationer from East Westphalia get involved as a department store rescuer?

Schön is the head of the stationery retailer buero.de, which sells office and school supplies. The company has just three stores in the Frankfurt area, the rest is run via the online shop. The 48-year-old also has wealth advice and a foundation for disadvantaged children. In total, he employs around 200 people. What does the man want now with 47 department stores? "The department store idea is not dead," says Schön in an interview with the star. And: No, the whole thing is "not a media gag", he really wants to take over the branches. In the next few days he will hold talks with the responsible insolvency administrator Arndt Geiwitz.

It is still unclear whether anything will come of Schön's plans. In any case, Schön seems to be enjoying the media attention. "We want to save Galeria Kaufhof," Schön promised in the "Bild" last week. The article has a prominent link on the buero.de homepage, along with two dozen other media reports about the investor's Galeria plans. It's only when you scroll down a bit that you get to what buero.de actually has to offer: copy paper, post-it notes, colored pencils and similar odds and ends.

Schön is actually an asset manager. He studied economics in London, worked in senior positions for Commerzbank and Sparkasse and is now the managing director of Schön

So now also "Save Galeria" - that doesn't sound bad. On closer inspection, Schön's plans don't quite meet that. The office retailer would like to take over and continue to operate 47 smaller branches. However, not under the name Galeria, which is reserved for the large locations in the metropolises, for which there should be an economic future. "Even if we got the name, I wouldn't want it," says Schön. He wants to run the shops under a new brand, but he doesn't want to reveal the name yet because he still has to secure the rights to it.

Schön has targeted locations in medium-sized cities, many of which are considered threatened with closure. He does not yet know whether all of his list are for sale. "First of all, we just looked at which locations we thought were attractive," says Schön. In today's Galeria branches, Schön not only wants to offer his office supplies, after all more than 60,000 items, but also a real department store range. "We want to offer a full range, classic department store," says Schön. He is convinced that competent on-site advice combined with a functioning online shop can result in a viable concept.

After all, Schön has announced that he not only wants to keep the locations, but also the jobs. "I want to take over all employees," says Schön to the star. There are around 5,500 at the locations under discussion. He would also have to take over rental contracts, the landlord would be partly the Signa Holding of billionaire René Benko, partly third parties, says Schön.

About Galeria owner Benko, it is said that when he first joined the company, he was less interested in the concept of a department store and more interested in real estate in prime locations. Medium-sized company Schön, on the other hand, has no interest in acquiring real estate. "I'm convinced that you can invest your money better than in real estate. I just want to take over the operational business."

There are still doubts about the rescue plans from Detmold. The trade journal "Textilwirtschaft" emphasizes that it is at least unusual for an interested party - especially without industry experience - to throw their hat into the ring via the media instead of exploring the chances of takeovers behind the scenes. We will soon find out what Galeria thinks of Schön's plans. There will be a face-to-face meeting shortly, a Galeria spokesman told the DPA on Tuesday. "In terms of content, we can therefore not comment on the ambitions."

The ailing department store group Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof had applied for a protective shield procedure at the end of October. It is the second bankruptcy within two years. And this despite the fact that the group, which is owned by the Austrian multi-billionaire René Benko, received massive state aid during the corona pandemic. Insolvency administrator Geiwitz has announced tough cuts. At least a third of the 131 remaining department stores are to be closed. Locations that are close to each other and those in smaller towns are particularly at risk. Galeria is currently in intensive talks with the landlords of the locations about rent, use of space, modernization and construction measures.

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