(Adds sources, detail)
FRANKFURT Aug 13 Austrian real estate investor
Rene Benko is likely to take over loss-making German department
store chain Karstadt by the end of the month, two sources
familiar with the deal said on Wednesday.
Benko has an option giving him the right to acquire Karstadt
from U.S. investor Nicolas Berggruen from the end of August, the
sources said, adding that he plans to exercise the option.
Karstadt would be transferred to Benko as soon as regulators
approve the deal, the sources said.
Austrian magazine Format earlier on Wednesday quoted Benko
as saying that he had been called on "to help by replacing
Berggruen as the owner" of Karstadt.
Billionaire Berggruen rescued Karstadt from insolvency in
2010 but has come under fire from German unions and media for
not investing enough in the chain, allowing rival department
store group Kaufhof, owned by Metro, to take market
Last month Karstadt Chief Executive Eva-Lotte Sjostedt
stepped down after only five months in the job, sparking fresh
speculation that Berggruen could sell Karstadt to Benko for a
Berggruen's holding company, which owns 84 Karstadt
department stores, and Benko declined to comment.
Last year Berggruen sold a 75 percent stake to Benko in both
Karstadt's separate premium department store business and its
Benko this week failed in his final appeal to the Vienna
high court to overturn a 2012 criminal conviction and one-year
suspended jail sentence for illegally intervening in an Italian
tax affair. The court ruling said that Benko had tried to
influence Italian tax authorities in a case against his Signa
($1 = 0.7483 euro)
(Reporting by Arno Schuetze, Matthias Inverardi, Maria Sheahan,
Michael Shields and Angelika; Editing by David Goodman)