A consortium made up of the US investment company NRDC Equity Partners and the entrepreneur Bernd Beetz is taking over the Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof department store chain. The two investors sought to take over and finance Galeria as part of an insolvency plan, the group announced on Wednesday in Essen. It is planned that more than 70 of the current 92 branches across Germany will be taken over – but the final decision on this will not be made until the end of April.

It was agreed not to disclose the purchase price. The takeover is also accompanied by a streamlining of the headquarters in Essen. 450 jobs there, or half of the jobs, are to be lost.

According to Galeria managing director Olivier Van den Bossche, the bidding process was “successfully completed” on Tuesday. The notarial certification also took place on Tuesday. The insolvency plan is to be submitted at the end of April, and the creditors’ meeting is expected to vote on it at the end of May.

According to the group, insolvency administrator Stefan Denkhaus will probably retain control of the group until the end of July – then it will be transferred to the new owners.

The German Association of Cities welcomed the decision. “With the separation from the Signa Group, these companies have a real chance of a fresh start,” said managing director Helmut Dedy in Berlin on Wednesday. What is important for the cities is that the remaining locations are given a future perspective on which they can build, emphasized Dedy. “This applies especially to the many employees in the Galeria branches. They have repeatedly had to worry about their jobs for months.” But department stores in city centers also remained anchor points and contact points for local people.

The fact that not all locations will apparently be maintained will be bitter for the cities affected and the employees. “New concepts must be developed quickly for these houses that create frequency. We cannot afford vacancies.” Many former department store locations have already been repurposed: as schools, museums or fitness studios, residential buildings or for day care.

The Verdi union has also expressed its satisfaction with the announcement of an investor for the insolvent department store group. “We welcome the fact that a financially strong investor has obviously been found who wants to maintain Galeria as a whole and has expertise in retail, although our experiences in the past have been quite ambivalent,” said Verdi Federal Executive Board member Silke Zimmer on Wednesday, according to a statement in Berlin.

Verdi expects the new owner to invest in the company, maintain the locations and secure long-term jobs for the employees, Zimmer continued. “The new owner should work with the employees to develop and launch a modern future concept that plays to the strengths of the department stores: a wide range of products paired with good advice.”

The general works council declared that it would be available to the new owners “for constructive cooperation that would secure jobs.” It is clear that there will be tough cuts again. “But thousands of jobs will also be preserved,” it said in a statement.

The Hudson’s Bay Company is a force in North America and claims to be the longest continuously operating company on the continent.

The name Hudson’s Bay – La Baie for short – goes back to a centuries-old trading post in the northeast of what is now Canada: The Hudson’s Bay Company was founded in 1670 to buy fur from North American natives. Two Frenchmen convinced the British crown to give them control over millions of square kilometers around the huge Hudson’s Bay.

One trading station became several, and in the 19th century the trading stations became shops for settlers. In 1912, the Hudson’s Bay Company opened its first six major department stores in Canada, and many more followed in the following decades. In the 1970s, the company began making acquisitions and grew even larger – but also got heavily into debt.

In 2008, Hudson’s Bay merged with the US retail group Lord and Taylor, also a company with a long tradition. The headquarters of the Canadian chain remained in Toronto, but since then it has been controlled by the owner of Lord and Taylor: NRDC Equity Partner and his boss Richard Baker.

Five years later, the Hudson’s Bay Company expanded to include the world-renowned Saks Fifth Avenue, a chain of luxury department stores with the famous New York department store as its flagship. Toronto and New York now share the company’s headquarters.

NRDC has already owned Kaufhof once through HBC: in 2015, CEO Baker organized the takeover of the Galeria Kaufhof department store chain. In 2018, HBC sold a majority stake to René Benko’s Signa Holding, and both chains merged.

This post is continually updated.