Factbox-Benko’s complex web at Signa – from Chrysler building to Berlin landmark

(Reuters) – Signa Holding’s insolvency on Wednesday has cast a spotlight on the complex structure of the debt-ridden Austrian property empire, whose holdings span from New York’s Chrysler building to shares in Britain’s Selfridges department store.

Although some parts of the empire are battling to stay afloat, the move is likely to trigger a domino effect across its vast retail and real-estate portfolio built up over two decades.

Here is a breakdown of the key parts of the business:


The holding company of Rene Benko, 46, the Tirolian property magnate behind the empire, is active in real estate and retail and invests in other companies.

The main shareholder and majority owner of the holding company is the Benko family via its private foundation and an Innsbruck-based holding vehicle named Supraholding.

Other shareholders include Swiss businessman Ernst Tanner, a senior executive at chocolate manufacturer Lindt & Spruengli, the private family foundation of building contractor and ex-Strabag boss Hans Peter Haselsteiner, German pet food firm Fressnapf’s founder Torsten Toeller and Swiss coffee machine entrepreneur Arthur Eugster.

It filed for insolvency on Nov. 29 in Vienna after long and unsuccessful negotiations with potential lenders.

Signa’s debts, estimated at around 5 billion euros ($5.45 billion), would make it Austria’s largest ever bankruptcy.


According to Signa, Prime is the group’s largest company in its real estate division, valued at around 20.4 billion euros ($22.23 billion). Whether this value still applies after the most recent turbulence and real-estate slump remains to be seen.

Well-known properties include the unfinished Elbtower high-rise, the Alsterarkaden and the Alsterhaus in Hamburg, department store buildings, KaDeWe in Berlin and Oberpollinger in Munich, and Vienna’s exclusive shopping district, the Golden Quarter.

The division also owns numerous prestigious properties in Vienna’s city centre including the art nouveau old Austrian post office building designed by architect Otto Wagner, the Bank Austria Kunstforum and luxury hotel Park Hyatt.

In Innsbruck, Benko’s hometown, it owns the Tyrol department store. Prime has brought co-investors on board for numerous properties.

In addition to the Benko family, which holds a majority in Signa Prime, industry billionaire Klaus-Michael Kuehne is also shareholder with 10% percent as of 2022. “Signa Prime is a blue chip among European real estate companies,” Kuehne Holding said at the time.

The RAG Foundation in Essen, which uses income from investments to manage former hard coal mining areas in Germany, also has a 5% stake in Prime.

Signa construction sites that have halted work – in addition to Hamburg’s Elbtower – include the Carsch House in downtown Duesseldorf, the Femina Palace in Berlin and several projects in Munich.

These stranded projects could become costly to run, for example due to weather damage.

According to local media reports, billionaire Kuehne could get involved in rescuing the Elbtower project.

Since 2019 Signa Holding has also been a co-owner of New York’s iconic Chrysler Building.


Benko has bundled his trading interests under the divisions Signa Retail and Signa Premium.

Berlin’s luxury department store KaDeWe, the Oberpollinger in Munich and the Alsterhaus in Hamburg form part of Premium.

Central Group, belonging to the Thai billionaire Chirathivat family, also has a stake in the division, which includes Swiss department store chain Globus and Selfridges in London.

Benko recently gave up some shares in the British luxury chain to Central Group.

British sports and fashion group Frasers said on Thursday it will seek to buy Signa’s SportScheck assets out of administration after the German sporting goods retailer became the latest Signa brand to file for insolvency.

Frasers had agreed to buy SportScheck in October for an undisclosed sum to expand its presence in Germany, but had not yet closed the deal.

Benko’s trading empire also includes German department store chain Galeria, which currently has around 12,500 employees and was founded under his direction.

Benko initially took over the Karstadt chain, merging it with Kaufhof in 2019. Karstadt and later Galeria survived two insolvency proceedings, with state aid of 680 million euros which the federal government has written off.

In Switzerland, Benko’s trading investments are bundled into Signa Retail Selection AG, which filed for bankruptcy protection on Wednesday.

In addition to Galeria’s operational business, Signa owns 18 department store properties. Signa has recently clocked up pending rental payments of around 200 million euros for these, according to sources.

Signa also has media investments that are not part of its core business. In 2018, Signa Holding bought around 24% stake in Austrian daily newspapers “Krone” and “Kurier” from Funke media group.

($1 = 0.9176 euros)

(Reporting by Alexandra Schwarz-Goerlich, Mattias Inverardi and Emma-Victoria Farr; Writing by Emma-Victoria Farr and Rachel More, editing by Elisa Martinuzzi and Tomasz Janowski)