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Good old days: Wiggle has also sponsored professional cyclists in the past, such as Dutch cyclist Kirsten Wild of the Wiggle High5 team (archive)

Photo: Zuma Press / IMAGO

The empire of Austrian investor René Benko (46) continues to collapse, centrifugal forces are increasing. Wiggle CRC, one of the largest online bicycle retailers, is now discontinuing its international business and focusing on the UK market. Benko's online retail holding company Signa Sport United (SSU) acquired Wiggle in 2021 and filed for insolvency at the beginning of November, along with its German subsidiary Internetstores Gmbh. Various online shops gather under the umbrella of internet stores – including well-known brands such as Fahrrad.de, Tennis Point and Wiggle.

Trade media such as "Global Cycling Network", "Bike Europe" or "Cycling News" quote from a statement from the Wiggle insolvency administrators, according to which negotiations with potential investors are gaining momentum and Wiggle wants to focus on the British domestic market. This currently generates 85 percent of revenues anyway. Wiggle continues to be the market leader there.

According to the announcement, the international web stores are to be shut down "in the coming weeks". An exact date was not given. Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles (CRC), an association of leading UK bike retailers, have shipped their items around the continent. According to the reports, the insolvency administrators assured that Wiggle as well as CCR will meet "all outstanding sales, return and warranty obligations for international customers".

In the statement, however, the insolvency administrators admitted that business in the UK home market had been "influenced by a number of economic factors" in the past, including rising international air freight costs and Brexit.

At the same time, Wiggle had filed for insolvency with the German Internetstores GmbH after the Signa Group SSU cancelled a promised capital injection of 150 million euros. In Germany, 1350 employees are affected by the SSU insolvency across all subsidiaries.

Previously, Benko had succeeded in passing on the well-known sports retailer Sportscheck, with 34 stores and most recently around 350 million euros in sales, to the British sports and fashion retailer Frasers. Sportcheck itself filed for insolvency at the end of November. The Frasers Group is considered a possible buyer for Wiggle, according to an earlier report by Global Cyckling Network. Behind Frasers is investor Mike Ashley (59), founder of England's largest sporting goods retailer Sports Direct.

The Signa Group, owned by former real estate mogul Benko, has come under massive pressure in recent months due to rising interest rates, energy prices and construction costs. So far, in addition to Signa Holding, the online sports retail division and a real estate management unit in Germany have filed for insolvency. Signa Retail Selection AG, headquartered in Switzerland, had announced that it would wind up the company in an orderly manner. Signa Retail also owns the Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof department store group, which is therefore likely to be up for sale. The future of the most important Signa companies, Signa Prime and Signa Development, remains open.