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By AFP


Private jets and an iconic building in New York: Property giant Signa’s inventory goes on auction

The total value of the items on sale has been put at 2.8 million euros (R57.5 million).


A sleek conference table, doormats, a snow globe, toilet brush holders, several e-bikes — more than 460 items of insolvent real-estate giant Signa is currently under auction.

Signa initiated insolvency proceedings in November, marking the spectacular downfall of its founder, self-made Austrian tycoon Rene Benko, and causing jitters among its investors.

His company is now looking to sell some of its most well-known assets, such as New York’s iconic Chrysler building, while construction of some massive projects, including a landmark high-rise in the German city of Hamburg, have stopped.

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The office furnishings of its posh headquarters in one of Vienna’s palaces have also been put up for sale in three online auctions, wrapping up in February.

The total value of the items on sale has been put at 2.8 million euros (R57.5 million), according to the administrator overseeing the insolvency proceedings.

A doormat with Signa’s logo with a starting price of 3 euros (R61) stood at 1,600 euros (R32 800) last Thursday, while an oval conference table, fitting 20 people, with a leathered surface stood at 12,000 euros (R246 530), four times its starting price.

Several of those attending a tour of the Signa offices to see the items on sale first-hand said they were looking for bargains — or simply just interested to see the low-ceiling, black marble wall premises.

“It’s not as opulent as I thought,” 19-year-old student Jakob Muehlbachler told AFP.

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Another student, Lian Schelkle, 21, said he had been following Signa in the news. “Their rise and fall was really fast,” he said.

The insolvency of Signa — whose board members included several Austrian politicians, including former chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer of the Social Democrats — has rattled Austria.

Benko, 46, founded Signa in 2000, growing it into a property and retail conglomerate, with offices in Austria, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and Switzerland.

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Named by Forbes as one of the country’s richest man until last year with a net worth of $6 billion (R113 billion), he has since been taken off the magazine’s billionaires list.

Signa lost control of historic British department store Selfridges in November, while Signa-owned German department store chain Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof has also filed for bankruptcy.

The company’s private jet is also being sold, while it is uncertain what will happen to a personal collection honouring late Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr that was to be displayed in a central Vienna shopping centre still under construction.

© Agence France-Presse

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