Galeries Lafayette stores run by HPB in job protection procedure
The employees of French company Hermione Retail, owned by Hermione People & Brands (HPB) - in turn controlled by businessman Michel Ohayon - which runs 25 branches of the Galeries Lafayette department store, had anticipated difficulties. In December, the representatives of Hermione Retail's 750 employees exercised their right to receive financial information relating to the group's situation. They have since then denounced the management for obstructing the information's release.
On the evening of Friday February 17, Ohayon told French newspaper Sud Ouest that he was going to “place the Galeries Lafayette [branches owned by HPB] under receivership to protect them from any attack.” He added that their financial situation was “healthy,” a week after the group had stated that “there are no plans to close down stores.”
Currently, the stores have actually introduced a job protection procedure under the trade court's auspices, and will not be placed under judicial receivership, said a spokesman for Ohayon on Saturday.
“There was an inaccuracy (...). There is no judicial receivership, because yesterday morning [Friday] an application to introduce a job protection procedure was filed with the trade court in Bordeaux. Payments [to creditors] will not stop,” a spokesman for Ohayon told the AFP agency.
Bordeaux businessman Ohayon owns, via Hermione Retail, 25 Galeries Lafayette branches acquired from the French department store group in 2018. They employ approximately 750 people in total, in French cities like Bayonne, Cannes, Niort and Rouen.
Other retail chains controlled by Ohayon are in turmoil, and walkouts have taken place this week in various stores.
The brutal liquidation of Camaïeu last September left about 2,600 people jobless, and in January the trade court in Grenoble placed another Ohayon-controlled chain, Go Sport, with over 2,000 employees, in receivership.
Ohayon appealed the decision, but he believes that Go Sport will be “sold before” the procedure is due to end. The master franchise for Gap on the French market, currently owned by Go Sport, will follow suit, with attendant “social disruption.”
This week, the Bordeaux trade court has also placed in receivership Financière immobilière bordelaise (FIB), Ohayon’s main holding company, with which he built his commercial and real estate empire and which also owns several hotels.
In his interview with Sud Ouest, Ohayon said that FIB has merely been placed “under the court's protection,” but the documents filed with the registry do indicate that a judicial receivership ruling was issued on Wednesday, with payments halted as of February 7.
Several subsidiaries of FIB were also placed in receivership, notably because they had not repaid €200 million worth of loans to the Bank of China.
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