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Signa founder René Benko with his wife Nathalie at the ski race in Kitzbühel in 2020

Photo: Patrick Steiner / GEPA / IMAGO

Like a game of dominoes, one company in the Signa conglomerate owned by real estate juggler René Benko is currently collapsing into insolvency after the next.

The proceedings are now bringing to light how money was loaned out in the intricate empire between the Signa Group companies and companies in the sphere of influence of Benko's family foundations.

Data from Signa Development, the central project developer of the Signa Group, reveals that millions flowed from there even before the company filed for bankruptcy.

According to the figures available to SPIEGEL, Signa Development loaned 189.8 million euros to Laura Holding, an important holding from the Laura Private Foundation, which is attributable to Benko, and some important Signa investors.

In addition, the Signa subsidiary loaned another 124.8 million euros to Laura Finance Holding, a subsidiary of Laura Holding.

The Laura Private Foundation was once founded by René Benko and his mother Ingeborg, who is a beneficiary along with Benko's daughter Laura.

The Financial Times first reported on the money transfer.

Signa had no comment.

The flow of money is fueling new concerns among investors who have already become suspicious since Benko's once-lofty promises of steady returns through extraordinary and luxurious real estate projects evaporated.

They are now worried about the money they have deposited and are increasingly asking questions about how much of their money could have ended up in Benko's private assets.

“The financial flows were so opaque that no one can say what stuck with them,” says one important investor.

Since last year, Signa Holding, as the parent company of the group, has been struggling for survival in insolvency proceedings.

Likewise the Signa Prime, where the real estate jewels are parked - from the KaDeWe in Berlin to the Park Hyatt in Vienna.

And Signa Development.

In addition, one investment company after the next stumbles into insolvency proceedings, for example because there is a lack of money for the construction projects to be completed.'

In any case, hardly any more financial help can be expected from previous donors.

There is too great a concern that fresh financial resources will immediately disappear again in the confusion of the Signa empire.

At the turn of the year, Signa Prime restructuring director Erhard Grossnigg tried to collect money from existing Signa investors to save the company and its real estate.

But they turned down the offer of participation certificates with a nine percent interest rate, even though these would have been given priority.