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Baugur boss Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson holds office furniture sale of the century

Friday 6 March 2009

FOR SALE: One black boardroom table, slightly battered, one previous owner, tact questionable.
Arne Jacobsen\'s Series 7 chairs. Arne Jacobsen chairs are among the items put up for sale by Baugur\'s founder. As office sales go, it takes some beating. Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson, the founder of Icelandic retail investor Baugur, is trying to sell thousands of pounds worth of designer furniture from the company\'s head office to former staff members, many of whom were suddenly made redundant when the chain collapsed into administration last month.

Conran desks, Arne Jacobsen chairs, glass-topped counters, a reception desk and black lacquered credenzas are all being offered for sale to staff and ex-staff. The combined value of the goods is well over £15,000. Baugur was placed into administration last month with debts of more than £1bn.

It is understood that Mr Jóhannesson and his wife, Ingibjrg Pálmadóttir, an interior designer who is also a Baugur board director, bought the contents of Baugur\'s New Bond Street office from the company\'s administrator. However, they have decided that they do not require certain items, which are therefore being touted to former staffers. It is not known what the couple paid for the furniture, but Gunnur Sigurdson, Baugur\'s chief executive, said last night that no one is profiting from the sale.

An email has been sent to certain former and existing Baugur staff by Hordur Logi Hafsteinsson, a Baugur employee. It reads: \"Ingibjrg and Jon have decided that out of the chairs and table that they acquired in the office they want sell [sic] some of the items.\"

The list includes 21 desks for £300 each, 22 office chairs for £200 each, and four \"games room armchairs\" for £300 each. Also listed are \"reception desk – 1 available\" and \"black veneer boardroom table with mirrors and electricity plugs – 3 available at £300 each\".

The email was sent to about two dozen staff, the vast majority of whom no longer work for Baugur.

One former staffer was outraged at the \"arrogance\" of the email.

\"I am treating it as uninvited spam,\" the person said.

Baugur was renowned for having expensive tastes. Ms Pálmadóttir is a famous interior designer in her native Iceland and designed the landmark 101 Hotel in Reykjavik.

The former employer added that the furniture \"is not functional, it was bought more for aesthetics. It was very cool when it was new but is looking quite tatty now,\" said the former employee.

Baugur fell into administration last month. The highly leveraged investor owned retail chains including Hamleys, House of Fraser and Whittard of Chelsea and had stakes in numerous other chains. A number of its chains have already been sold, while others are now controlled by Baugur\'s banks.

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