Co-Owner Of Chrysler Building Files For Insolvency
Signa intends to undergo a restructuring similar to U.S. bankruptcy proceedings, The Wall Street Journal reports. The firm’s founder, René Benko, stepped down from his role on the advisory board earlier this month after the company failed to reach a deal with its lender to restructure its debt.
Under regulations in Vienna, Signa has 90 days to present a turnaround plan that its creditors will accept, pay back 30% of claims within two years, and maintain autonomy to restructure debt and dispose of assets, Bloomberg reported.
The insolvency filing throws the fate of the firm’s real estate empire — which includes a delayed Hamburg tower that would have been one of Germany’s tallest, British luxury department store Selfridges, as well as the Chrysler Building equity — into question.
The firm’s portfolio was once valued at $30B and continued to invest through the market’s shifts in recent years. However, poorly performing trophy assets and high interest rates led Signa into difficulty, with European banks marking down the values of some loans in recent months.
Signa's investment bets on retail, in particular, haven't yielded the success they hoped, the company said. The firm joined Thailand’s Central Group to buy Globus, a luxury Swiss department store, during the pandemic, as well as Selfridges in 2021.
JPMorgan Chase analysts estimate that more than half of the $4.5B debt that Signa’s two largest subsidiaries have is floating-rate, meaning the loans are significantly more expensive than when the firm first borrowed the money. The company's total debt is more than $14B, according to the bank. Restructuring manager Arndt Geiwitz is overseeing the process, the WSJ reported.
“Company managers want self-administration, partly because it sounds better when communicating to the outside world,” Dragica Banovic, an insolvency attorney at law firm Hww in Frankfurt, told Bloomberg. “However, the proceedings are still insolvency proceedings.”
Signa acquired the Chrysler Building in 2019 in a partnership with Aby Rosen's RFR for $150M, a price that amounted to a huge loss for the previous owner, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, which paid $800M for a 90% stake in 2008. The deal was fueled by increasing ground rent payments to Cooper Union, which owns the land under the tower at 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue.
“We wish Signa well in their endeavor to resolve the company’s issues,” an RFR spokesperson told the WSJ, adding that RFR operates the building and would be happy to increase its stake.