Arcandor AG was a holding company located in Essen, Germany, that oversaw a number of companies operating in the businesses of mail order and internet shopping, department stores and tourism services. It was formed in 1999 by the merger of Karstadt Warenhaus AG, founded in 1920, with Quelle AG, founded in 1927. In 2005, the corporation had about 68,000 employees and annual sales of €15.5 billion. Its stocks were traded on the Mid Cap DAX until September 2009. The company's largest store was Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe) in Berlin, and the largest store operated by Karstadt was in Frankfurt.

Arcandor AG
Traded asFWB: ARO
HeadquartersEssen, Germany
Number of employees
68,000 (2005)

Arcandor requested financial assistance from the German government, which was rejected by the European Commission on 3 June 2009.[1] On 6 June 2009, the company announced it was no longer able to pay rent for its department stores, which the company had previously sold and leasebacked.[2] Three days later, the company filed for bankruptcy.[3]


On 14 May 1881, Rudolph Karstadt founded his first store Tuch-, Manufaktur- und Konfektionsgeschäft Karstadt (Karstadt fabric, factory outlet and ready-to wear store) in Wismar. In 1884, a second store was opened in Lübeck. Soon, 24 stores had been opened in all of Northern Germany. In 1920, the business was turned into a joint stock company. In 1984, Karstadt acquired the mail-order business Neckermann Versand. In 1994, it acquired the department store chain Hertie, to which KaDeWe belonged. In 1999 it merged with Quelle AG to become KarstadtQuelle AG. On 1 July 2007 the company was renamed Arcandor AG.

On 5 June 2009, investigations started into possible breach of trust offenses by Arcandor's former CEO Thomas Middelhoff.

In June 2009, Arcandor filed for bankruptcy protection after its request for loan guarantees of up to €650 million was rejected by the German government.[3] The German government subsequently agreed on 30 June to provide a €71 million loan to Quelle.[4] The company's holding in the Thomas Cook Group was sold by Arcandor's creditor banks in September 2009.[5]

The administrators of Arcandor chose in October 2009 to liquidate the Quelle mail order business, following unsuccessful attempts to find a buyer.[6]

In September 2010 the American investor Nicolas Berggruen bought the Karstadt business to save it from insolvency.[7]

Business segments

Arcandor was active in the following business segments:

  • Brick-and-mortar operations:
    • Department stores: Karstadt, KaDeWe, Wertheim, Alsterhaus, Oberpollinger, WoM (World of Music), Schaulandt, LeBuffet, Fox Markt
    • Specialty stores: KarstadtSport (athletic equipment, etc.)
  • Mail-order:
    • General: (until 2005 known as Neckermann Versand), Quelle
    • Specialty assortments: Walz, Hess Natur, Fritz Berger, Madeleine, BON'A PARTE, clinic+job-dress, DK Berufsmoden, Simon Jersey
  • Services:
    • Tourism: Bucher Reisen, Thomas Cook Group (52% ownership)[3]
    • Financial services: KarstadtQuelle Bank, KarstadtQuelle Finanz Service
    • Other services: Customer loyalty scheme (HappyDigits), Itellium, KarstadtQuelle Information Services

Arcandor's websites, when taken together, put Arcandor easily in the top 20, and maybe in the top 10, in the rankings of all web properties ranked by numbers of unique visitors per month, among internet users in Germany.[8] Most of this traffic was shoppers at online stores branded with the company's brick-and-mortar store brands or its mail-order catalog brands.


  1. "Timeline - Arcandor's path to insolvency". Reuters. 9 June 2009. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  2. "Arcandor could file for insolvency on Monday". Reuters. 7 June 2009. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  3. "Germany's Arcandor in bankruptcy". BBC News. 9 June 2009. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  4. Nicholson, Chris (30 June 2009). "Germany to Loan Arcandor Unit $71 Million". New York Times. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  5. Scuffham, Matt (9 September 2009). "Arcandor banks launch Thomas Cook share placement". Reuters. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  6. "Arcandor's German mail-order unit Quelle to close". Reuters. 19 October 2009. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  7. Elfes, Holger (18 May 2011). "Karstadt Plans to Form Three Legally Independent Businesses". Bloomberg. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  8. In July 2008 Arcandor AG's combined websites ranked number 9 on the list of all websites ranked by unique visitors per month, among German internet users, according to data compiled by Comscore. See
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