UPDATE 1-Austrian investor takes stake in Karstadt's luxury, sports stores
* Rene Benko buys 75.1 pct of Karstadt premium, sports stores
* Nicolas Berggruen retains control of 83 stores
* Union says akin to break-up of group (Adds comment from union, Berggruen)
FRANKFURT, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Austrian investor Rene Benko has taken a stake in German retailer Karstadt's luxury and sports stores, his Signa property vehicle said on Monday.
Benko previously tried to gain a foothold in German retail when he bid for rival department store chain Kaufhof at the end of 2011. Kaufhof's owner Metro scrapped the sale in January 2012, saying bids were not attractive enough.
Karstadt is split into three different units - its premium business, its sports stores and its regular department stores. Vienna-based Signa said on Monday it was taking over 75.1 percent of the luxury division - three stores including the KaDeWe department store in Berlin - and its sports division, made up of 28 sports stores.
Businessman Nicolas Berggruen, who rescued Karstadt from insolvency in 2010, will retain the other 24.9 percent stake in the units and will keep 100 percent of Karstadt's remaining 83 department stores.
Berggruen will not receive any money from the sale, but the two sides have agreed to invest 300 million euros ($398 million) in the Karstadt group as a whole, the majority of which will come from Benko.
Berggruen has come under fire from union representatives in recent months over pay proposals for employees and for not investing enough in the chain.
Union Verdi said on Monday the sale was akin to a breakup of the group and would worry employees.
"It would have good had Berggruen used his own money for the necessary investment and kept the company together," Verdi board member Stefanie Nutzenberger said in a statement.
Berggruen said his focus now was on the 83 department stores, for which he saw "good growth opportunities", and on agreeing a new pay deal for employees.
Karstadt does not publish results, but German media had previously reported sales had dropped by around 10 percent in the first six months of its business year, which runs to Sept 30. The luxury and sports stores were performing better than the other Karstadt stores, German paper Bild had reported.
Outgoing chief executive Andrew Jennings said in September that sales had increased in August, though declined to give figures. ($1 = 0.7542 euros) (Reporting by Victoria Bryan in Frankfurt, Matthias Inverardi in Duesseldorf and Angelika Gruber in Vienna; Editing by Sophie Walker and David Evans)
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