Toilet brushes and board tables auctioned in Signa fire sale

By Tom Sims

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Objects ranging from Signa’s leather-covered boardroom table to toilet brushes from the European property company’s Vienna offices are being auctioned off this month as investors try to recoup some of the billions lost through its collapse.

The fire sale, which went online on Friday and is overseen by a court-appointed official for Signa’s insolvency, underscores the dramatic fall from grace for the company, whose portfolio included New York’s Chrysler Building.

But the value of the goods for sale, which includes a model of the Hamburg skyscraper Signa had been building but was halted when it stopped paying a contractor, represents a tiny fraction of the billions of euros that creditors are owed.

Banks, insurers, pension funds and other investors are now licking their wounds after Signa, a group of some 1,000 companies founded by Rene Benko, filed for insolvency late last year with around 5 billion euros ($5.46 billion) in debt.

Other divisions have followed suit as executives scramble to sell holdings and raise money after the collapse of Signa, the biggest casualty so far in Europe’s real estate crisis.

“More than 460 items will go under the hammer in the first three auctions, providing an insight into Rene Benko’s power centre,” auction house Aurena said.

The sale includes desk chairs, lamps, coat hangers and door mats emblazoned with the Signa emblem. There is even a four-piece bronze-coloured toilet set, with two toilet paper holders, a toilet brush and trash bin.

Among the more pricey objects is a “presidential table” with a diameter of 8 metre and space for around 20 people, which is showing a current bid of 3,400 euros.

A spokesperson for Aurena said interest has been strong, while Signa did not respond to a request for comment.

($1 = 0.9156 euros)

(Reporting by Tom Sims, Editing by Rachel More and Alexander Smith)