Did Camaïeu wilfully lead foreign branches into bankruptcy?

A store with the logo of retailer Camaieu
Photo: sylv1rob1 / Shutterstock.com

Trouble at French retailer Camaïeu: the unions accuse management of wilfully sending three foreign branches into bankruptcy by 'rerouting funds'. Current CEO Joannes Soënen, who is in the running to retake control of the chain for a reboot, denies the charges.


Funds stream to France

Belgian trade union CNE has alleged that the management of Camaïeu has orchestrated the bankruptcy of its branches in Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland. They see proof of this in emails, in which the management orders to send as much money as possible from the subsidiaries to the French company, so that "the money does not remain in the subsidiaries". "Even when future payments were due", Soënen said "procedures must be implemented to safeguard this stream", Belgian newspaper La Libre Belgique reports based on the emails that trade union delegate Jalil Bourhidane obtained.


The union also sent the emails to the court that has to decide if Soënen is allowed to attempt a reboot with support from various investors. The CEO promises he will keep 2500 of the chain's 3200 jobs. The other candidate is Financière Immobilière Bordelaise from Bordeaux, but neither has explained what their plans would mean for the Belgian subsidiary, which employs 120 people in 28 stores.


"Not deliberate"

Bourhidane says the emails prove that the French parent company "has deliberately put its subsidiaries in such a situation that they were no longer able to fulfil their obligations", especially talking about the branches in Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland. The union therefore demands that a legal trustee be appointed to allow the case to be investigated thoroughly.


Soënen, howevery, is firm in his response to the same newspaper: "I deny vehemently that these transfers were meant to save Camaïeu France. This dates from 12 March, in the middle of the coronavirus crisis, and we were organising the company as any company should with regards to the circulation of cash. There is no deliberate manoeuvre whatsoever behind this."