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'Homeless billionaire' to rescue drugstore chain

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'Homeless billionaire' to rescue drugstore chain
Photo: DPA
16:34 CEST+02:00
US-German billionaire Nicolas Berggruen confirmed his interest in buying the remains of bankrupt German drugstore chain Schlecker on Friday.

A spokesman for the investor confirmed a report that he is in contact with the insolvency administrator and is considering buying the entire company for between €100 million and €150 million.

The 50-year-old socialite, sometimes referred to as the "homeless billionaire" because he reportedly lives exclusively in hotels, is apparently making a habit of buying up insolvent German retailers, having bought up struggling department store chain Karstadt in October 2010.

Berggruen Holdings, which has offices across the world, deals primarily in long-term investments. The company recently made headlines by buying a stake in US fast-food chain Burger King.

A spokesman for German service industry union Verdi said it was open to any investors "who keep the preservation of jobs in mind," and that it would assess the concepts of any potential investors, including that of Berggruen.

Verdi said it was hoping for word on what would happen to the remaining 13,500 Schlecker employees from a creditors' meeting expected to convene on Friday.

The creditors' board is an advisory committee for the administrators made up of selected Schlecker creditors as well as representatives of Verdi, the Federal Employment Agency and the general works council. Much depends on Euler Hermes, an insurance company that owns over 50 percent of Schlecker's debt.

According to a report in the Stuttgarter Nachrichten newspaper earlier this week, Berggruen Holdings has already submitted a business plan for Schlecker, but this is not a binding offer. A final decision should be made at a creditors' meeting on June 5.

The search for someone to rescue Schlecker has proven a headache so far – the company's huge losses and thousands of damage claims from former employees have deterred many investors.

A spokesman for the administrator said last week that there were five interested parties, and that "intensive talks" were under way with three of them. A due diligence phase is in progress with four potential investors.

The Local/DAPD/bk

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