co op AG

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co op AG

legal form Corporation
founding 1972
resolution 1989
Reason for dissolution Busting
Seat Frankfurt am Main
management Bernd Otto
Number of employees 50,000 (1988)
sales 12 billion DM (1988)
Branch Grocery retail

The co op AG , based in Frankfurt was a German trading company. It originated in the early 1970s and until the 1980s most of the West German consumer cooperatives were incorporated into the co op AG. The group, in the legal form of a stock corporation , recently had around 50,000 employees and generated sales of twelve billion marks . At the end of the 1980s, the company was broken up as a result of the co-op scandal, one of the biggest economic scandals in German post-war history.

The co op brand and the blue co-op logo were introduced as a joint market presence for the West German consumer cooperatives before co op AG was founded. Both were therefore also used by consumer cooperatives that were not part of co op AG, such as today's coop eG .

The Swiss Coop has, despite the similarity of names developed independently and has no economic connection with the co op AG.


The formation of the co op AG was the result of increasing competitive pressure from the advance of private retailers. The regional consumer companies that existed after the Second World War first introduced the co op brand in 1969 . From 1972 onwards, several of the consumer companies changed their legal form from an eG to an AG. First of all, in December 1972, the Hamburg-based Großeinkaufsgesellschaft Deutscher Konsumgenossenschaften mbH (GEG) was converted into the co op Zentrale Aktiengesellschaft , whose headquarters were still in Hamburg. The chairman of the board was the SPD politician and board member of the Federation of German Consumer Cooperatives (BdK), Oswald Paulig , his deputy the previous GEG board member Werner Peters. The change in legal form alone did not stop the increasing competitive pressure, so the companies began to merge with one another. In November 1974, a new co op Zentrale AG was founded as a holding company in Frankfurt, the first chairman of which was the BfG board member Horst van Heukelum (born November 8, 1926 in Bremerhaven ; † January 18, 2019 in Kronberg im Taunus ). At the same time, the Hamburg co op Zentrale AG was renamed co op Handels- und Produktions-AG (Hapro) and its responsibilities as a subsidiary of the new Frankfurter AG were limited to trading and production activities. Most of the West German consumer company trade was combined in this new stock corporation. In 1981 it was renamed co op AG . The Hamburg co op Handels- und Produktions-AG was merged with the Frankfurter AG in 1983.

Ownership structure

Since it was founded in 1974, co op AG has largely belonged to various unions . In 1982 they held a stake of 48% through the then Beteiligungsgesellschaft für Gemeinwirtschaft (BGAG). In 1985, BGAG's stake fell to 39%. After the trade unions of the DGB got into financial problems due to the scandal over the Neue Heimat , they decided to sell their co-op participation. First, DG Bank was supposed to take over the share package and put it into free float by placing it on the stock exchange , but this broke off the project. Instead, the BdK took over the shares of the trade unions with the newly founded BdK-Beteiligungsverwaltungsgesellschaft , whose main shareholder after the decision of 1972 was again the co op AG. The IPO of co op AG took place on October 16, 1987, after the Swiss Bank Corporation, which had already given a guarantee for the purchase by the BdK, had agreed to act as an issuing house . After the IPO, only 10% of the share capital was owned by small shareholders and the share package of the trade unions was divided between four major shareholders: the Gesellschaft für Handelsbeteiligungen (GfH), the Management Company for Foundation Assets (VSV), the BdK-Beteiligungsverwaltungsgesellschaft and the Skandinavia Gesellschaft für Handelsbeteiligungen . These were led by former co-op managers and confidants of the co-op chairman Bernd Otto .

co-op scandal and busting

The three co-op board members Bernd Otto (Chairman), Dieter Hoffmann and Werner Casper used the opaque ownership structures of the group to set up parallel organizations abroad (especially in Switzerland and Liechtenstein ) to which large parts of the co-op sales flowed . Among other things, the Bremen retail chain Kafu-Wasmund was covertly acquired through a subsidiary of the Swiss Bank Corporation and was not reported to the Federal Cartel Office .

In 1988, the news magazine Der Spiegel reported on balance sheet manipulation and asset shifts, as a result a debt of five billion marks (adjusted for purchasing power in today's currency: the equivalent of 4.5 billion euros) became known. In total, the co-op board had cheated several banks by two billion marks.

Works council Jürgen Siewert before the labor court in Dortmund

The company's employees lost their manipulation by the company pensions . The board members had exchanged the pension fund for largely worthless shares. The works council played a key role in uncovering the scandal . In a series of labor court cases, the board tried in vain to dismiss the chairman of the general works council, Jürgen Siewert. All credit lines were closed to the company. As a result, the over-indebted co op AG was initially insolvent. In order to avert bankruptcy, a settlement was made with the 143 creditor banks in 1989, which in fact meant the end of co op AG. Most of what was left was absorbed by Deutsche SB-Kauf AG, which belonged to Asko Deutsche Kaufhaus AG in Saarbrücken , a former consumer cooperative that was itself part of the co-op group until 1982. Asko AG was later taken over by the Metro Group .

At the same time, at the beginning of the 1990s, the north co-op sales area (Hamburg) was subdivided into the companies Pro Consumers-Handels-GmbH and the logistics company HPL, and co op Dortmund and co op Schleswig- Holstein continued under the leadership of co op Schleswig-Holstein (since 2006: coop eG) . From 1996 onwards, the former business areas of PRO Consumer-Handels-GmbH were transferred to Spar (Hamburg-Schenefeld), which in turn was taken over from 1998 by Edeka Nord .

Bernd Otto's board of directors was dismissed without notice in December 1988 and charged with breach of trust , falsification of accounts and fraud in the early 1990s . Bernd Otto was sentenced to four and a half years in prison by the Frankfurt am Main jury court in 1993.

Former retail chains of the co op AG

  • Bolle (supermarkets)
  • COMET (grocery stores and supermarkets)
  • coop (grocery stores and supermarkets)
  • depot (supermarket chain)
  • Garvey Bodega (Sherry Bodega)
  • HPL (trade partner logistics / wholesale)
  • mayer (shoes)
  • plaza (hypermarkets)
  • PRO (grocery stores and bakeries)
  • Richter game and hobby (toys)
  • safeway (supermarkets)
  • Schade und Füllgrabe (supermarkets)
  • Schatzlein (supermarkets)
  • SK; since the 1990s Sky (supermarkets)
  • Schlemmermeyer (cheese / delicacies)
  • fabi (grocery discounter)
  • Drowa (drug stores)
  • Heinzelmann (household goods)

See also

Literature and film

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Mismanagement at Coop: The almost perfect crime . In: Manager Magazin . August 28, 2001 ( [accessed August 15, 2018]).
  2. a b c d e f g h Burchard Bösche , Jan-Frederik Korf: Chronicle of the German consumer cooperatives: 150 years of consumer cooperatives in Germany, 100 years of the Central Association of German Consumer Cooperatives. V. Ed .: Central Association of German Consumer Cooperatives . Hamburg 2003, DNB  972504443 , p. 39–41 ( [PDF; 1.8 MB ; accessed on January 26, 2019]).
  3. ^ Kai D. Eichstädt: Shares for the comrades . In: The time . No. 50/1972 , December 15, 1972 ( [accessed January 26, 2019]).
  4. a b c Gunhild Freese: Farewell to the headquarters . In: The time . No. 12/1975 , March 14, 1975 ( [accessed January 26, 2019]).
  5. Miriam Westenberger: Mourning for Horst van Heukelum . In: Kronberger Bote . KW04 / 2019, January 24, 2019, ZDB -ID 2090168-9 , p. 8 ( [PDF; 5.1 MB ; accessed on January 26, 2019]).
  6. Judgment BVerwG 8 C 7.06 of the Federal Administrative Court of April 25, 2007, para. 16
  7. a b Co op - rebuilt and hollowed out . In: Der Spiegel . No. 42/1988 , October 17, 1988, pp. 142–155 ( [PDF; 1.5 MB ; accessed on January 26, 2019]).