Signa Holding

Signa Holding GmbH (officially written as SIGNA) is Austria’s largest privately owned real estate company. Signa was founded in 2000 by the Tyrolean entrepreneur René Benko. Over the years, the two-man company with an initial focus on classic real estate development has become a pan-European real estate group with more than 150 employees and offices in Vienna, Innsbruck, Munich, Düsseldorf, Luxembourg, Zurich, Bolzano, Berlin and Hamburg. The principal focus of the Signa Group of Companies is the long-term investment in real estate in prime city centre locations. Additionally Signa became the biggest owner of malls in Mid Europe with over 20.000 employees.

SIGNA Holding
IndustryReal Estate & Retail & Media
Founded2000 in Innsbruck
FounderRené Benko
HeadquartersInnsbruck, Austria
Key people
see below
Revenue3,800,000,000 euro (2016)


Fifteen years old, SIGNA Group has emerged as one of the leading and most successful privately owned European real estate companies. Dedicated to exceptional retail properties, the group was able to cultivate expert knowledge on the retail sector. In 2013, SIGNA extended its activities on merchandising by acquiring majority stakes in the German sporting goods specialist Karstadt sports and in Karstadt Premium. In summer of 2014, SIGNA took over Karstadt Warenhaus.

Since 2013 SIGNA operates in two independent business segments. In 2018 a third segment with "SIGNA Media" was added.

SIGNA Real EstateSIGNA RetailSIGNA Media
Within SIGNA Real Estate, over 150 employees manage a real estate portfolio of around €6 billion out of ten offices in Austria, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. Real estate operations are organised in four distinct divisions:

Long term ownership of exceptional city-centre properties in European highstreets

Closed-end real estate funds

SIGNA Development
Traditional project development

Real estate investment products

SIGNA Retail holds and manages all merchandising activities with stakes in three of the largest German retail companies. Over 20.000 people working in over 100 locations generate annual revenues of over €3 billion.
  • Karstadt Sports

Number 2 German sporting goods retailer

  • Karstadt Warenhaus

German department store group with over a century of tradition and experience

  • The KaDeWe Group

Operator of premium department stores in the legendary KaDeWe in Berlin, Alsterhaus in Hamburg and Oberpollinger in Munich. (49% owned by Signa)

  • Outfitter: Multi-Channel-retailer for sport equipment and fashion in Germany
  • dress-for-less GmbH: Online-Outlet for fashion
  • internetstores: Online-retailer for outdoor and bicycle gear
  • Tennis-Point: Multi-Channel-retailer for tennis gear
  • Eataly
  • Probikeshop: Online-Bike-Retailer in France and Southeurope
  • Online-retailer
  • Mybestbrands: Online-fashion-mall
  • Stylefile: Online-retailer for sport gear
  • Sportscheck
In late 2018 the SIGNA Holding bought 49% of the foreign company shares from the "Funke Mediengruppe". Through this investment SIGNA owns part of the two biggest Austrian newspapers:[1]

The group of companies covers real estate assets worth more than 14 billion euros and is one of the largest private owners of real estate in the centres of Vienna and Innsbruck. The current development volume is about 8 billion euros. The Signa Group is not only active in its core markets of Austria and Germany but also in Italy, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Czech Republic.

Corporate structure

The principal shareholder of Signa Holding is the Familie Benko Privatstiftung which holds 85 per cent of all company shares. Ernst Tanner, the manager of Lindt & Sprüngli, holds another 10% of shares. The final 5% are owned by Torsten Töller, manager of Fressnapf. The Greek ship owner George Economou exited the company in 2015.


The management of Signa Holding GmbH is the responsibility of the two CEOs Christoph Stadlhuber and Marcus Mühlberger. Since the beginning of 2013 the operational and strategic management of the Signa Group has been the responsibility of the Group Executive Board (GEB) whose five members are the CEOs of the core areas and the Group CFO. The GEB deals not only with the operations of the individual core areas but also with cross-company matters including group strategy and coordination as well as fundraising.[2]

Advisory board

Since switching to the Advisory Board, René Benko has been its Chairman. The Deputy Chairman is the former Federal Chancellor of Austria, Alfred Gusenbauer (who is, amongst other things, also Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Strabag and Chairman of the Haselsteiner Privatstiftung). Further Advisory Board members are: Roland Berger, Walid A. Chammah, Günter Koller, Eduardo Leemann, Karl Samstag (former CEO of Bank Austria UniCredit), Susanne Riess, Karl Stoss, Rainer De Backere (former CIO of Westfälische Provinzial Versicherung), Peter Hasskamp (former Chairman of the Board of Bremer Landesbank), Karl Sevelda (former CEO of RBI) and Ernst Tanner.

A selection of real estate assets

The new headquarters of the German Stock Exchange in Eschborn near Frankfurt, the luxury department store KaDeWe in Berlin, Alsterhaus in Hamburg and Oberpollinger in a prime city centre site in Munich and objects in Vienna's pedestrian zone and Mariahilfer Straße belong to the Signa portfolio, as do the Sevens shopping centre on Düsseldorf's Königsallee which has been jointly refurbished with the Düsseldorf-based Centrum Group and further buildings in the centres of Hamburg, Stuttgart and Freiburg. In Austria, Kaufhaus Tyrol and the properties of the Goldenes Quartier in Vienna and one of the buildings which houses Meinl am Graben belong to the Signa portfolio. In December 2013 it was announced that Signa had acquired the Wiener Postsparkasse, the headquarters of Bawag P.S.K., and rented it back to the bank long-term.[3]


The SIGNA Holding was founded in the year 2000 and emerged from the previous company Immofinna from René Benko. In the modest beginnings the company focused on renovating lofts. In 2001 Karl Kovarik joined the company and the first office in Vienna was opened. In 2004 the construction of the shopping mall Kaufhaus Tyrol started. SIGNA Holding's office in Innsbruck is still situated in the top flowers of the Tyrolean mall. In 2005 the advisory board got established, which is still active today. In the following years offices in Munich, Zürich and Luxembourg opened. In this time also large property, like the Deutsche Börse in Frankfurt, were added to the portfolio.

Since 2012: The Karstadt takeover

Karstadt Premium GmbH, Karstadt Sports GmbH and Karstadt Warenhaus GmbH and their sub-divisions were taken over in a series of steps. At the end of December 2012 a portfolio of 17 Karstadt department stores including the Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe) in Berlin was acquired by Signa Prime Selection AG for a sum of over 1.1 billion euros. The transaction was by far the largest retail real estate investment in Germany in 2012. On 16 September 2013 it was disclosed that Signa, together with the BSG Group, had taken over 75.1% of the operative business of Karstadt-Premium-GmbH and 75.1% of the operative business of Karstadt-Sports-GmbH from the Berggruen Holding of the German-American businessman Nicolas Berggruen for 300 million euros. This sum was to be spent on the strengthening of the Karstadt Group and the modernisation of individual stores with the aim of guaranteeing Karstadt's long-term competitiveness. In November 2013 Signa passed on half of its shares – that is to say 37.55% - in Karstadt Premium and the sports shops, to the Israeli businessman Beny Steinmetz. Karstadt Premium operates the three luxury department stores Kaufhaus des Westens in Berlin, Alsterhaus in Hamburg and Oberpollinger in Munich. With its 28 sports shops, Karstadt Sports is one of Germany's leading retailers of sporting goods. On 15 August 2014 SIGNA Holding acquired 100% of the shares in Karstadt Warenhaus GmbH and the remaining shares in Karstadt Premium GmbH and Karstadt Sports GmbH. The deal marked the final withdrawal of Berggruen Holdings from any involvement in the operations of the Karstadt Group and from its share in the ownership of individual Karstadt properties.[4]

In the financial year 2015/16 the Karstadt group managed to earn the first profit in years. In the following year the profit even broke the one million euro mark. This breach has not happen for 12 years. The future focus will include the online business.

Since 2016: Further expansions

Participation in Outfitter

In April 2016, Signa Retail acquired a majority stake in Outfitter, one of the leading sports multi-channel providers. As part of this investment, Signa Retail acquired 60% of Outfitter - the remaining 40% remained with Ron Berger. The founder and former sole shareholder will thus continue to be significantly involved and, together with his managing director Maximilian Albert, will continue to operate the business in the future.

Both partners invested "a substantial amount of millions" in the company in order to expand existing business fields. The plan is to create conditions for the desired market leadership in Germany with the coupling of Karstadt Sports and Outfitter.

Acquisition of dress-for-less

In August 2016, Signa Retail took over 100% of the designer fashion online outlet dress-for-less. dress-for-less was founded in 1999 and has a presence in thirteen countries. The core business is in the D-A-CH (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) region and in the Netherlands. In 2011, the Spanish-based shopping club Privalia acquired the German company. In November 2015, Privalia withdrew and the management team, headed by managing director Antonio Gonzalo, took over the company. In the meantime, Mirco Schultis - founder of dress-for-less in 1998 - has returned to the role of CEO in order to re-establish the course of success of the early 2000s. Holger Hengstler will also support the company as an active advisory board. Sandra Rehm has been managing the company since July 2017. The common goal with the new owner SIGNA Retail is to return the company to its old strength. The company employs around 260 people at its headquarters in Kelsterbach, Hesse. The dispatch of the commodity takes place over 60 countries.

Takeover of Internet stores

At the beginning of November 2016, Signa Retail acquired an 87% stake in the specialist mail-order company for bicycle and outdoor products called Internet stores. The entire management of Internet Stores remained on board: René Köhler accompanies the company as Chairman of the Advisory Board. The task of the CEO took over October 1, 2016 Markus Winter. The previous managing directors Bernd Humke (Finance) and Ralf Kindermann (Purchasing) also remained in the company. As of 2017, Internetstores is active with online shops in 14 European countries. The outdoor portfolio includes the German online retailer Campz and the Swedish internet company Addnature. In the bicycle segment, Internet stores with and Brügelmann are mainly active in Germany, with bikers across Europe.

Takeover of Tennis Point

At the end of 2016, Signa Retail acquired a 78% majority stake in the multi-channel retailer Tennis-Point and further expanded its portfolio in the sporting goods retail sector. Company founders Christian Miele and Thomas Welle continue to manage the company and retain 22% of the shares. Sascha Beyer also joined the management team. With its range of more than 12,000 tennis and running articles from more than 100 different sports brands, private labels and exclusive brands, Tennis-Point has a wide range of products that are distributed in the 19 online shops and the 12 branches at various locations in the DACH region. The first online shop was launched on the occasion of the Australian Open in 2008; now there are these in ten different languages.[5]

Joint venture for Karstadt München Bahnhofplatz

In a central location in Munich, between the main station and Stachus, Signa Real Estate went in October 2016 in a joint venture with the partner RFR Holding GmbH and has participated in the famous department store ensemble Karstadt München Bahnhofplatz.

Since 2018

Acquisition of Galeria Kaufhof

On 11 September 2018 Signa acquired the majority of the department store chain Galeria Kaufhof from Canada's Hudson's Bay Company, which had bought the chain in 2013. This takeover allowed Signa to merge its Karstadt department store chain with Galeria Kaufhof. In June 2019 the shares in Galeria Kaufhof still held by the Hudson's Bay Company, were bought by Signa Holding.[6]

Peugeot Family investment

In June 2019 Signa confirmed, that the French investment holding Société Foncière, Financière et de Participations, which manages the equity stakes of the Peugeot-family, acquired a 5% stake in Signa Prime Selection for €186 million.[7]

Investment by Madison International Realty

The New York-based investment company acquired a 5% stake in Signa Prime Selection AG in July 2019.[8]

Business segments

SIGNA Real Estate

Takeover of BAI

At the beginning of January 2017, Signa Real Estate announced that it was taking over the renowned Viennese developer BAI Bauträger Austria Immobilien GmbH. BAI Bauträger Austria Immobilien GmbH is a property developer with a current investment volume of around €1.7 billion, a portfolio of currently 18 projects and a project development volume of more than 440,000 m². As part of the BAI Group, its own service companies for project development and property development (BAI), brokers (BAReal) and a property management company (Donath) are also being acquired and continued by the new owners. The declared future goal for the BAI under the new ownership is to become an independent Housing Developer for affordable housing in Vienna.

Sale of large office projects in Austria

In the summer of 2017, the Signa project The Icon Vienna was sold to the new Vienna Central Station as part of a forward deal to Allianz. At the beginning of October, the first three components of the office project Austria Campus were sold to PGIM Real Estate. With a volume of over 500 million euros, the deal was the largest real estate transaction of 2017 and the largest office real estate transaction in Austria by that time.[10]

Capital increase by Signa Prime Selection AG

Also at the beginning of October 2017, an increase in shareholder capital of Signa Prime Selection AG, which has real estate in good inner-city locations in Germany, Austria and northern Italy, was carried out at 1 billion euro. Signa's existing investors, the private foundation of Hans Peter Haselsteiner and Niki Lauda's Family Office as well as new investors subscribed to the shares.

Purchase RFR portfolio in Germany

In November, Signa Prime Selection AG acquired a portfolio consisting of five properties: the Upper West in Berlin, the Kaufmannshaus and the Alsterarkaden in Hamburg, the project development Upper Zeil in Frankfurt and 50% RFR participation of the Karstadt project at the Munich railway station. The other 50% were already owned by Signa Prime. The volume of the transaction was around 1.5 billion euros and was the largest property deal in Germany in 2017.

At the beginning of December, Deloitte's headquarters, formerly owned by Signa Funds, became BNP Paribas Real Estate. In mid-December, the Schickler Haus, an office complex in Berlin Mitte, was acquired.

Participation in S Immo AG

In December 2017, it was announced that the S-Immo shareholder Ronny Pecik has signed an agreement with Signa Holding, which entitles them to take over its entire shareholding of 21.86 percent.

At the beginning of April 2018, the Vienna Insurance Group (VIG) sold its stake of 10.22 percent in S Immo AG, which it held in the real estate group through its subsidiary s Versicherung (Sparkassen Versicherung AG - Insurance company).

In the course of this, the Benko Privatstiftung family took over 7.28 percent of the VIG share package, and at that time, including the right of first refusal, contributed 21.86 percent to S Immo AG with a total of 29.14 percent.

In mid-April 2018, Ronny Pecik and the Signa Group sold the entire 29.14 percent stake in S Immo to Immofinanz.

Takeover APA tower

In October 2018, it was announced that BAI Bauträger Austria Immobilien GmbH, part of Signa Holding, had bought the former home of the Austria Press Agency (APA). The old skyscraper with 82 meters is to give way to residential construction projects, so that the housing share in the area is raised.

Joint venture to buy the Chrysler Building

In March 2019 the Signa Holding partnered with RFR Holding to buy the Chrysler Building in New York for an estimated amount of 150 million US-Dollars.[11]

SIGNA Retail


In April, Signa Sports Group and its subsidiary internetstores acquired 100% of Probikeshop - an online bike retailer founded in 2005 in Saint-Étienne in France and Southern Europe.

In mid-June 2017, the company acquired the majority (70%) of the online marketplace and 60% of the online platform Mybestbrands.


At the end of February 2018, the takeover of Stylefile, an online shop for sportswear takes place.

In April 2018, Signa Sports Group - one of the four trading platforms of Signa Retail - announced that it was re-appointing the company. Dr. Stephan Zoll, former Managing Director of eBay in Germany and Member of the Management of eBay in Europe, will take over the position of CEO of the Signa Sports Group as of July 1, 2018.

In an interview with the German Handelsblatt Karstadt CEO Stephan Fanderl announced in May 208 that the department store group in Berlin-Tegel would open a new branch - the first new location in three decades. On the other hand, Fanderl spoke about the further expansion of the online business of Karstadt and the planned entry into the furniture business.

Berlin-Tegel will not remain the only new Karstadt branch, as the department store chain will inaugurate a new department store in Gropius Passagen in Berlin this autumn. Here, as it were, a location was continued which Kaufhof closed last year. It is the largest shopping center in the German capital, with Karstadt being the anchor tenant with an area of approx. 7,900 m² will be built on three floors.

On June 1, 2018, Christian Bubenheim was hired as the new CEO of the online handler for outdoor and bicycle products internetstores. As a result, the manager of Autoscout24 switched to Signa Retail.

On June 15, 2018 it was announced that Benkos Signa bought the financially troubled furniture chain Kika / Leiner. The participation saved the traditional Austrian furniture store from the crisis. Reinhold Gütebier took over the management of the furniture store chains after the purchase.


n June 2019, the sports trading division of Signa Holding took over the French online retailer of tennis products called Tennis Pro.

In November 2019, it was announced that Signa Holding's retail division will take over the travel agencies and the online platform of Thomas Cook Germany, thus securing the jobs of the insolvent tour operator for the time being. The travel business is not completely alien to the new Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof network, but is significantly expanded with this step.

In December 2019, it was announced that Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof will take over the sports retailer Sportscheck from the Otto Group. This will expand the Signa Retail division by a further 1,300 employees and 300 million annual sales. Sportscheck CEO Markus Rech welcomed the end of the uncertain times in a first statement.

Signa Media

In November 2018, the acquisition of 49% stake in the German Funke media group in the Austrian daily newspapers "Kronen Zeitung" and "Kurier" by Signa Holding was announced. This is the first investment in the media sector.

Signa Innovations

This business unit of Signa Holding is engaged in the identification of promising projects in the field of real estate digitalization. After identification, Signa Innovations equips the respective start-up company with capital, know-how and industry-relevant contacts. In this context, a cooperation has already been entered into with the Vienna Economic Chamber.[12]


In September 2018, the Viennese start-up Storebox secured a seven-digit investment from Signa Innovations. The concept of the company is aimed at a close-knit warehouse network, which could become more important in times of increasing mail order business.


This startup relies on methods of digital transformation to evaluate real estate objects. In December, an investment by Signa Innovations in the new company was announced. Again, a seven-digit amount should be invested.


On 13 May 2013 it was disclosed that Strabag boss Hans Peter Haselsteiner had - via his private family trust - taken a share in Signa Prime Selection AG. The prominent business figures who hold shares in Signa Prime include Roland Berger, Wendelin Wiedeking, Ernst Tanner, Harti Weirather and Torsten Toeller.


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