VIENNA, Sept 2 Austrian tycoon Hans Peter
Haselsteiner has come to the rescue of home-improvements
millionaire Karlheinz Essl by buying a modern art collection
that Essl had tried in vain to sell to the state to prop up his
BauMax business empire.
A spokeswoman for Haselsteiner, whose family foundation has
a 25 percent stake in construction group Strabag,
confirmed a report in newspaper Die Presse on Tuesday that the
Essl collection had been bought.
A new firm owned 60 percent by the Haselsteiner family
foundation and 40 percent by Essl family vehicles is paying more
than 100 million euros ($131 million) for the collection, the
paper said. The money would help shore up the BauMax group.
One of Europe's biggest modern art collections includes
works by major Austrian artists such as Oskar Kokoschka and
Hermann Nitsch and international names including Gerhard
Richter, Sam Francis and Anish Kapoor.
Austria in April turned down Essl's request to buy the
7,000-piece collection, rejecting his argument that 4,000 of the
more than 9,000 jobs in his struggling company were at risk if
it did not do so.
Loss-making BauMax had 158 outlets in nine countries as far
afield as Turkey -- a market it is quitting -- but ran into
trouble when the financial crisis crimped demand for DIY
supplies in eastern Europe.
(1 US dollar = 0.7624 euro)
(Reporting by Michael Shields, editing by David Evans)