René Benko bought real estate and department stores, promising a "golden future" for city centres. Now his empire, Signa Holding, is insolvent. Like a house of cards, the opaque system threatens to collapse, and numerous German cities would be affected.

High interest rates and construction costs have hurt Benko's business model, but the bankruptcy raises questions: Why does Signa suddenly have five billion euros in debt? Why did many investors and municipalities get involved in pompous but risky deals? And what will become of the department stores of Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof, which has already gone through two bankruptcies and devoured many millions of euros in taxpayers' money?

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Galeria Karstadt in Hamburg: Does the chain have a future?


Marcus Brandt / dpa

SPIEGEL reporter Kristina Gnirke has been scouring the Signa Group's business for years, and she has met René Benko several times. In the podcast, she explains how the billionaire's "capital carousel" began to wobble and what political failures have contributed to it.

Listen to the full episode now:

"Stimmenfang" is SPIEGEL's political podcast. For all those who want to understand Germany better. Marius Mestermann discusses the political topic of the week with his guests. New every Thursday.

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