KarstadtQuelle rejigs its board

Ailing German conglomerate KarstadtQuelle, dubbed an 'investor no-fly zone' by analysts, has made key management changes in an effort to give credibility to a huge business turnaround programme.

Karstadt boss Wolfgang Urban was ousted earlier this week and replaced by Christoph Achenbach, who previously headed the mail-order division.

Achenbach is a favourite of the Schickedanz family who own a 36 per cent stake.

Former Bertelsmann chief executive Thomas Middlehof and Hans Reischl, ex-chairman of German grocer Rewe, have also been drafted in.

KarstadtQuelle was formed five years ago in a merger between the Schickedanz family (Quelle) and Allianz Dresdner (Karstadt), who remain key shareholders.

Analysts speculate that the Schickedanz family is interested in hiving off the mail-order business, which, with the Neckermann and Quelle brands, is the second-largest catalogue operation in the world behind Otto Versand, from the Karstadt department store division.

Urban had already taken the axe to the unwieldy business, and his strategy, referred to as 'challenge', is to be pursued by Achenbach.

The twin focus is debt reduction and reducing loss-making operations by handing over trading space to partners such as Rewe, which will run 75 food departments from January.

Karstadt's woes are magnified by the depressed German retail climate, where the Government has failed to get nervy consumers spending. German retail sales fell by a steep 4.4 per cent in the first quarter.