He was considered the savior of the Frankfurt Karstadt branch: Friedrich Wilhelm Goebel. With his fashion store Aachener, the managing director took over seven locations of the then insolvent department store chain Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof in the summer. Until then, the Frankfurt branch belonged to René Benko and his company holding company Signa, which has since filed for bankruptcy. At that time, many of the employees pinned their hopes on Goebel because he wanted to make everyone a takeover offer, "without exceptions" - and reopen the department store by October. But at the beginning of December, a large part of the building on the Zeil, Frankfurt's largest shopping street, was still empty. Aachener himself is now bankrupt - and Goebel is on the run from the authorities.
On the window panes of the former Karstadt branch there are still two large advertising posters with the inscriptions “Autumn 2023 reopening” and “Frankfurt, we look forward to seeing you!”. But the only constant in the black and white striped building is an independent supermarket for Asian food in the basement. Instead of the "Aachen Department Store", as the new opening was to be called, TEH Textilhandel GmbH sells sporting goods on the ground floor. Aachener is the TEH brand. As a GmbH, it stands behind the fashion house, which has only existed since 2022.
What will happen next with the Aachen branch in Frankfurt after the bankruptcy filing is completely unclear. The company's press office did not respond to a request from Capital. The rental agreement runs until the end of 2025. TEH did not provide an answer as to what TEH's insolvency means for the employees at the locations it took over, such as Frankfurt; just as little as the question of whether the company is aware of the whereabouts of its fugitive ex-managing director Goebel or is in contact with him. He last sent an email to employees at the beginning of November. He told the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” that he was sticking to the plans for the Zeil and wanted to open on November 23rd.
One thing is clear: Goebel leaves behind a pile of broken pieces that his successor Oliver Nobel must now sweep up. Aachener elevated him to office at the end of November. After just a few days, Nobel declared the fashion house bankrupt on November 24th. He wrote to the more than 360 employees in a letter from which the "Handelsblatt" quoted: "As things stand now, it is no longer guaranteed that we can still pay due liabilities on time and in full."
Nobel is a lawyer in Frankfurt and specializes in corporate restructuring. Together with the provisional insolvency administrator Christoph Schulte-Kaubrügger, he now has to maneuver Aachen through the disaster. Nobel is familiar with difficult cases: with his law firm Görg, he advised, among other things, the insolvent project developer Gerch and helped with the sale of Real supermarkets.
Meanwhile, his predecessor Goebel remains in hiding and is wanted on an arrest warrant after he failed to appear at a court date in Hagen, North Rhine-Westphalia, at the beginning of November. The 60-year-old manager is accused of providing false information about his assets in 2020 and lying in an affidavit. As the "Bild" newspaper reports, he is said to have stated to a bailiff that his income of 8,300 euros was 1,000 euros lower than it actually was. In addition, he is said to have denied signing a villa in Kitzbühel for 4.7 million euros to his then wife in 2018.
It's not the first time Goebel has had a run-in with the law. Because he repeatedly deliberately drove without a driver's license, a court first sentenced him to probation and then, according to "Bild", in November 2022 to a prison sentence - which Goebel never served. It is also unclear exactly how Goebel actually spells himself: in the commercial register he is listed as Friedrich Wilhelm Goebel, but the spelling Friedrich-Wilhelm Göbel also exists.
On December 14th at 11 a.m. he will be summoned to another trial before the Dortmund District Court. The public prosecutor's office is charging him with violating the GmbH Act. Goebel founded TEH Textilhandel GmbH in mid-November 2021 with share capital of 25,000 euros. When registering the company on October 20, he assured the district court that he had not committed any economic misconduct in the last five years. However, in July 2017 he was sentenced to a fine by the Munich District Court for intentionally delaying bankruptcy. It is unlikely that Goebel will appear in Dortmund courtroom 1.103 in mid-December.
For Goebel's business partner, the judicial crime involving the ex-Aachen boss becomes a hanging game: Torsten Altenscheidt, for example, is managing director of TEH's only shareholder, ALA Beteiligungs GmbH. She holds all shares in TEH and thus in the Aachener fashion house. According to his LinkedIn profile, the manager is part of the leading management team at TEH, where he is responsible for the fashion chain's finances as Chief Financial Officer (CFO). In response to a query from Capital about the possible outcome and effects of the TEH/Aachen insolvency, Altenscheidt replied that the preliminary insolvency proceedings were “not even two weeks old”. Therefore, “any speculation about future developments” is prohibited.
“However, I can assure you that the management, the provisional insolvency administrator and all TEH employees are doing everything they can to do justice to the interests of TEH’s creditors and all other interested parties” – including suppliers, landlords and employees – “as best as possible ", says Altenscheidt. He did not want to say whether he was in contact with his fugitive business partner Goebel. “The events that currently determine Mr. Göbel’s situation have their origins exclusively in the private sector and date back several years,” writes Altenscheidt.
Altenscheidt and Goebel know each other from their time at the Sinn fashion chain. According to his own information, Altenscheidt was commercial director there from October 2017 to August 2021. He worked as an authorized representative at the insolvent predecessor company SinnLeffers between 2011 and 2013. Goebel, in turn, had been at SinnLeffers since 2013 and later even took over the insolvent store with his wife Isabella Goebel. But just a few years later the couple separated. What followed was a marriage collapse on a large scale, as “Manager Magazin” writes.
Accordingly, Isabella Goebel shot her ex-husband and previously company boss Friedrich Wilhelm in August 2021. CFO Altenscheidt also had to leave. He found out about his expulsion while on vacation. After the Goebels' personal and professional separation, both claimed the company as their own. However, by contract it belongs to Isabella Goebel. It was during this time that Friedrich Wilhelm Goebel and Aachener came up with the plan to build their own retail chain. According to “Manager Magazin”, he lured employees and landlords away from Sinn and unsettled business partners. A total of around 2,000 employees of the two companies Sinn and Aachener were at risk of becoming “victims of a brutal feud”. This could soon also include the Frankfurt branch and its employees.
Note: The article first appeared on Capital.de.