Go Sport: Michel Oayon challenges receivership, ditches Wilhelm Hubner
French businessman Michel Oayon, boss of asset management firm Financière Immobilière Bordelaise (FIB), the parent company of Hermione People & Brands (HPB, the retail group that owns Go Sport, the Gap France master franchise and 22 Galeries Lafayette branches), abandoned his habitual reserve to “defend his reputation” in an interview with Challenges magazine, saying he is ready to acknowledge mistakes and “ask forgiveness.”
Oayon first of all said that, “with €115 million worth of inventory and liquidity,” sport retailer Go Sport is not defaulting on payments, as was ruled by a French trade court that placed Go Sport in receivership on January 19. Oayon contested the ruling, and said he will appeal the decision and draw up a turnaround plan in a few days, according to Challenges.
Regarding the money transfers that occurred between Go Sport and its parent company HPB, Oayon said that “everything was done within the boundaries of the law.” A preliminary investigation into abuse of corporate property was opened in November 2022. Some money is reported to have been used to bolster Camaïeu, while €36 million were paid from HPB to Go Sport to fund the latter’s acquisition of the master franchise for Gap France, another entity owned by HPB. To merge the two assets, “following an agreement with the [French] competition authority, we determined the market value [of Gap France] on the basis of two reports compiled by experts.”
Oayon, ranked 104th by Challenges among France’s richest individuals, also jettisoned one of his trusted lieutenants, Wilhelm Hubner, whom he hired as head of Camaïeu in 2020, and then put in charge of HPB. “Wilhelm can grow a business, but isn’t a turnaround expert, a quality that would have been key in this phase,” said Oayon, adding that “[our] paths will have to separate.”
In early January, HPB appointed turnaround specialist Patrick Puy to lead Go Sport. According to other sources, Puy has been tasked with preparing the sale of Go Sport, a retailer that operates 223 stores and has 2,160 employees.
Finally, asked about Go Sport’s sponsorship of the Roubaix Cycling Club, chaired by Wilhelm Hubner and which was given a sum of €1.8 million, Oayon admitted it was “foolish,” but added that it “accounted for only 5% of Go Sport’s sponsorship budget.”
Oayon concluded that he “understands the anger” of Go Sport’s employees, but said that “they have nothing to gain from disparaging their company.” FIB, which besides HPB also owns real estate assets, vineyards and hotels, is said to be “embattled” but “solid.”
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