Dutch book chain Selexyz files for bankruptcy

Book chain Selexyz, not long ago the dominant force in Dutch high street bookselling, is on the brink of financial collapse.

On Tuesday (27th March) the holding company filed for bankruptcy. However hopes are rising that administrator Jan Dingemans will be able to save the chain's 16 bookshops, among them iconic places like Selexyz Donner in Rotterdam, one of the largest bookstores in Europe with selling space of nearly 6,000 square metres, or Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht, the world’s most beautiful bookshop according to the Guardian.

The downfall of Selexyz had been on the cards since autumn 2011, after chief executive Matthijs van der Lely and financial director Menno van den Brand had failed to turn the struggling company around with a series of drastic cost-saving measures. In September both gave in to pressure by bank ABN Amro and “temporarily” resigned from their posts. They were replaced by Arnoud Maas and Bart Koops, two experienced crisis managers who between them successfully restructured Hema, a Dutch chain of department stores.

Reportedly ABN Amro is in advanced talks with book retailer De Slegte which runs 26 antiquarian and discount bookshops in The Netherlands and neighbouring Belgium. According to reports, Dingemans is hoping for an agreement by this weekend.

The problems at Selexyz started in 2009 when the private-equity company NPM announced its intention to sell its majority share in Boekhandels Groep Nederlands (BGN), the largest Dutch bookselling chain and then owner of Selexyz. BGN was finally broken up. The 29 academic bookstores were sold to Kollum and the 16 high street bookshops including an online shop were acquired in a management buy-out by BGN’s c.e.o. van der Lely, van den Brand and retail company Audax in equal shares.