Dirty weekend of all saints for the 17.500 employees of Vivarte. Thursday, October 27, the board of directors of Novartex (groupe Vivarte) has landed Stéphane Maquaire, CEO of the group since 19 April, and installed in his chair, Patrick Puy. “In the light of her significant experience in the area of quick turnaround business,” say the shareholders. In short, for the trade unions who met him on Wednesday, it is a cost killer, which comes to complete the dismantling of the company.
It is little to say that the employees of Vivarte are worried. For the past two years, they attend impotent to the sale or restructuring their stores and have the impression that they serve only the interests of vulture funds eager to get their update. In fact, in August 2014, the twelve investment funds, four of which are shareholders of reference – Oaktree, Alcentra, Babson, and Golden Tree -, return to the capital of Vivarte by buying back debt (décotée) of the 116 creditors of the group who give up at the same time to 2 billion euros of debt (about 2.8 billion euros).
The new fund agree to make the pot 500 million euros to boost the apparel group and take control. Marc Lelandais, president and CEO since 2012, which had led to the restructuring operation, is ousted in the aftermath. Richard Simonin, a former Redoubt, and Givenchy, was appointed the director-general and begins to fire (about 1,500 employees), while closing a number of stores. A restructuring, which does apparently not the shareholders. Has the general surprise, last April, Stephane Maquaire, president of Monoprix since 2010, takes its place. Before being sacked in turn… Interview with Jean-Louis Alfred, the coordinator CFDT group.
How Vivarte (La Halle, André…) has been planted
How have you learned of the departure of Stéphane Maquaire ?
Stéphane Maquaire was landed from one day to the next day ! We learned of his ousting when he was already outside. He came to present us with a plan over three to five years, which seemed to us rather well. It was even mounted in the niche, saying that it validated. Him, he told us that he was going to “do with our means”. He thought of finding the cash by selling the brands in Spain and put in place a strategy focused on the city centres. His plan had been proposed three times to the shareholders. But it had been refused three times. The latest, at the time it was his plan, he had chosen to put the company under a mandate ad hoc.
How do you explain this eviction ?
The ad hoc mandate is fallen yesterday. And the head of Maquaire at the same time. I do not understand why they have gone to search it, if it is not to follow its recommendations. During the presentation of the first plan, in August, the fund said it did not go far enough. Should we think that it is a casting error ? He was not going far enough in skinning ? Richard Simonin did not want it to go further…
employees already have many paid this restructuring…
Yes, Richard Simonin had already done most of the job. There were four PES [backup plan of employment, ED.] since the arrival of the funds. There were up to 1,400 job cuts on The Halle aux clothing ; Challenge Mode comes to be sold ; Kookaï is looking for a buyer ; The Vosges to the Shoe – our last plant fell into the pot of a German group. Chevignon and Pataugas are also on sale. Overall, we have lost six entities. And we are told that we need to go further. It remains Caroll, Naf Naf, both the halle, San Marina, Minelli…
Strike and walkouts in more than 200 stores of the group Vivarte,
the first day of the balances of June 2015. (ROMUALD MEIGNEUX/SIPA)
You have just met Patrick Puy. What is your impression has he done ?
he says He wants to continue with the plan initiated by Stéphane Maquaire. That his ouster is just a story of a person. But look at his CV. It is a killer. For us, it will carve up the group and do the dirty work for funds and we have never met. These funds will wish to recover their initial bet, the € 500 million that they loaned each other and that earn them a lot of interest.
You have the impression of having been abandoned by the public authorities ?
The social plans have been very hard. There were 3,000 layoffs in two years, but that person does not raise the little finger ! And I think that soon, there will be no more. You are hallucinating ! No policy has not budged, not even the smallest mayor of the smallest city of France ! It remains 17.500 employees. People who are already in a precarious situation : 51% of part-time and 80% of women. People who are often under the threshold of poverty.
How to react to the employees ?
They say that they are considered sub-citizens. We are ready to block the two repositories of les Halles. We will fire if necessary. There was nothing more to lose. Nobody hears us for the past two and a half years.
interview by Corinne Bouchouchi