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France's Ohayon empire and its string of subsidiaries



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Photo credits (from left to right): FashionUnited, Gap, Denis Charlet/AFP, Unsplash, Photo DENIS CHARLET / AFP, Photo Serge Attal / Only France / Only France via AFP. Photo collage created by FashionUnited.

Bordeaux - Chain shops but also palaces, buildings, coffee, wine, higher education institutions or a spa: French businessman Michel Ohayon, who has recently been in the sights of the Paris public prosecutor's office, has invested in just about everything with his family.

After the liquidation of clothing chain Camaïeu and the receivership of Go Sport, the setbacks are piling up for the Bordeaux native, who recently withdrew from some of his companies for the financial benefit of his relatives. Here is a non-exhaustive overview of his empire, as reconstructed by the commercial registers.

FIB, the flagship

The Financière Immobilière Bordelaise (FIB), Michel Ohayon's holding company, declared itself in suspension of payments on February 7. A week later, the Bordeaux Commercial Court placed it under receivership.

At the end of 2021, the FIB's balance sheet showed liabilities of 501 million euros, with assets of only 428 million, according to the ruling. Created in 1996, it is the company with which Michel Ohayon built his real estate and commercial empire. He was the sole beneficiary until recently, owning 99 per cent of the capital, but this has now been transferred to his wife.

According to its latest published accounts, the holding company has about 30 subsidiaries, including Hermione People and Brands (HBP), a company that owns several retail chains. The company as a whole is now under investigation by France’s National Jurisdiction for Combating Organised Crime (Junalco).

Consumer brands

HPB, founded by Michel Ohayon in 2018, was the parent company of Camaïeu, which went into liquidation at the end of September, leaving more than 2,000 employees without a job.

Today, it is still the parent company of Go Sport with 2,150 employees and Gap France with 350 employees, 25 shops and a Galeries Lafayette outlet with 1,100 employees. In addition, it owns the French toy specialist La Grande Récré with 700 employees and Legal cafés with 140 employees, all of which HPB acquired in recent years.

Sportswear company Go Sport

Go Sport was placed in receivership in mid-January by the Grenoble commercial court. The investigation into the sportswear firm was initially opened by the public prosecutor's office of the city of Grenoble for "misuse of corporate assets" within Go Sport. It was later extended by the Paris prosecutor's office to include "fraud in an organised gang, routine money laundering, bankruptcy and abuse of corporate assets", the Grenoble public prosecutor's office said at the end of February, confirming information from French newspaper Le Monde.

On Thursday, parent company Hermione People & Brands (HPB) dismissed Go Sport managing director Patrick Puy two months after his arrival. HPB did not comment on the reasons for his dismissal. Go Sport has been in deficit for years and was bought out by HPB at the end of 2021 for a symbolic euro.

At 6pm CET on Friday, a spokesperson for HPB told the AFP that Michel Ohayon wants to remain in control at Go Sport.

The announcements come at a time when potential buyers had until 2pm CET on Friday to make themselves known. Go Sport has been in deficit for years and was bought out by HPB at the end of 2021 for a symbolic euro.

The sports retailer Intersport was set to make a takeover bid, AFP reported on Thursday based on information from a source close to the case, while the name of UK sportswear company Sports Direct was also mentioned.

Galeries Lafayette and Gap France

When it comes to HPB’s other fashion subsidiaries, the Bordeaux commercial court opened a safeguard procedure for the Galeries Lafayette department stores, also in difficulty. In addition, at the end of February, the public prosecutor's office of the Grenoble commercial court requested that the 20 franchised shops of the Gap France clothing chain be placed in receivership.

Palaces and a castle in French wine country

In 1999, Michel Ohayon bought the Grand Hôtel de Bordeaux, franchised by InterContinental. He then acquired the Waldorf Astoria Trianon Palace in Versailles and the Sheraton in Roissy. At the end of January, the Bordeaux Commercial Court placed three FIB subsidiaries, owners of these hotels, in receivership for failure to repay 200 million euros in loans to the Bank of China. In 2017, Michel Ohayon also bought Château Trianon, located in the town of Saint-Emilion and known as an estate where Bordeaux wine of high quality is produced. Ohayon bought the chateau from a Hong Kong holding company.

Unfinished real estate projects

In 2015, Michel Ohayon acquired an emblematic building in Bordeaux to turn it into a luxury hotel which never saw the light of day. Subsidiaries of the FIB that were responsible for the project were placed in receivership last month. In Marseille, the completion of a prestigious residence, Le Bao, is severely delayed, which according to Michel Ohayon himself is due to substantial additional construction costs. The Bordeaux commercial court has also placed a company linked to the site in receivership.

A spa in Paris, a Campus Academy and companies in Luxembourg

FIB also owns 25 percent of Les Bains de Léa, a spa in the 8th arrondissement of Paris run by the businessman's wife. One of the couple's children is the head of Campus Academy, a network of private, non-contractual higher education institutions located in several French cities. Out of six higher education schools that have been opened since 2019, two have closed in the cities of Aix-en-Provence and Nantes, and another is in difficulty in Rennes. The family name also appears in the Luxembourg trade register, as Le Monde revealed two years ago.

According to documents registered in the country, Michel Ohayon was then a shareholder in a company that has since been dissolved. It is now one of his sons who, via another Luxembourg holding company, holds shares in several companies including the French company NTF Energy, which specialises in solar energy. (AFP)

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.FR. Translation and editing from French into English: Veerle Versteeg.

Editor's note: This article was updated on Friday, March 10 at 6:43pm CET based on the latest information from French news agency AFP.

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