Sour Dough by SCcouncil


									Feature Retail

     Pauls Bakery’s debt ridden
           China franchise

H                            older Group, founded in 1889, owns
                             seven prestigious brands in France.
                             Their Paul Bakery chain has 750 stores in
France and 100 worldwide, and is arguably the group’s most famous.
It has blossomed in South Korea, Taiwan and the Middle East. So
why now is Holder’s branch in China under fire?
   Accusations against Levillair Group, the franchise owner of Paul
Bakery in China, include lack of financial control, un-paid bills, and
                                                                         Clasquin was finally ordered to cancel the group’s credit line and the
                                                                         last shipment of baking goods (dough for croissants, whole cakes,
                                                                         etc) was abandoned, with an unpaid customs fee, for more than two
                                                                         months in the shipping yard. The entire shipment was ruined and
                                                                         had to be destroyed. Clasquin, which has a relationship with Holder
                                                                         Group in France, may have received some compensation, but sources
                                                                         say it is unlikely that the debt has been completely cleared. Clasquin
                                                                         declined to comment on any of the charges. As a result, the Paul’s
poor human resource management. The aggrieved parties form a             Bakery chain here has turned to local suppliers for ingredients, said
long line and involve logistics service provider Clasquin, well-known    the source.
food importer Sinodis, several franchise inves-                                                     Paying rent has also apparently been a prob-
tors, plus landlords, construction and design                                                    lem, and Paul’s stores and factory have been
firms, employees, and even Holder Group itself.                                                  plagued by unannounced shutdowns. Former
Francis Mouly, ex-operations director of Paul’s,                                                 employees say that it was the landlords who
estimates the total debt at minimum is around                                                    shut the door. The Paul shop in the Portman
1.2 million Euros. According to sources, Holder                                                  Ritz-Carlton had its doors closed briefly in May
Group has been quietly trying to regain control                                                  2010, with no announcement; deliverymen ar-
of the situation at Paul Bakery since 2009, but as                                               rived to find locked doors. The shop on Dong-
yet have been unable to reign in their renegade                                                  Ping Road, in the heart of the French Conces-
bakery branch in Shanghai.                                                                       sion has allegedly not been paying its rent on a
                                                                                                 regular basis. The factory responsible for pro-
The Ones Who’ve Lost                                                                             viding all bakery items for the Paul’s franchise
   The amount of debt Levillair Group allegedly                                                  had its electricity shut off. One of Paul’s most
incurred is staggering. One insider estimates that                                               profitable shops, the Gubei Carrefour branch,
at one point, the company had an outstanding                                                     was shut down for almost a month. At one
debt to Clasquin of over RMB 1 million for imported ingredients.         point, Paul’s owed nine months of back rent to Carrefour, though
“Essentially Clasquin would pay up front for the raw materials we        Mouly says it has been at least 70% paid back.
needed from France,” said the anonymous sources. “But we stopped            Several former-employees, both from the back office and on the
paying them on arrival and were using services on extended credit        shop floors, have noted that most of the restaurants also lack the cor-
… each shipment was around one full shipping container and worth         rect licenses. Some are licensed under the landlord; others allegedly
about RMB 300,000.” When the economic crisis hit around 2009,            have no license to speak of. In 2008, the Paul on Huaihai Road was

22              July/August 2010                                                                                     
                                                                                                                       Feature Retail

shut down permanently due to license issues,       chise agreement was approved. Paul’s was on
after frequent unannounced closings.               its way to China.                               Reputation
                                                      The group entered Shanghai with a splash        Given the situation, why it has taken
Individual Players                                 in 2007, expanding rapidly and garnering        Holder Group so long to wake up? While un-
   However, the biggest losers in this swath       much excitement among both the Chinese          der the franchise agreement Holder Group
of destruction are arguably the many smaller       and expatriate population. People marveled      is only entitled to 5% of the franchise’s rev-
players, partners and independent investors.       at its’ rapid expansion and excellent public    enue, they arguably are risking the ruination
Mouly, who was one of the groups’ first            image. Residents salivated over the goods.      of their brand on in one of the worlds’ most
China partners, quit in February of 2009. He       According to two sources, the seven stores      promising markets. However, Mouly still
says he was promised a 3% stake in the com-        were profitable until around 2009, as baked     sees Holder Group as a victim. “Holder tried
pany in exchange for his investment of Euro        goods – especially French pastries backed       to do their job monitoring the bakeries,” he
50,000 and his role as one of the founding         by Paul’s international reputation – are very   said. “But the group was able to avoid them
partners. It never came. Mouly                                                                           or keep them off; nothing could be
also says that other investors suf-                                                                      done.” A trusted source confirmed that
fered even greater losses, includ-                                                                       Holder Gropu has indeed tried to take
ing the original Arab investors                                                                           back the franchise in China to protect
who own the Paul’s franchise in                                                                           its’ interests and reputation, but at the
Qatar and Dubai. These investors                                                                          end failed to reach an agreement due
originally agreed on a 35% stake                                                                          to the unreasonable stance of Harold
in the China franchise in exchange                                                                        Levillair. As a result, Holder Group
for a 6 million euro investment.                                                                          now has a pending suit against Levil-
Mouly says the Arabs never saw a                                                                          lair Group. Harold Levillair himself
dime in return. The four Arab in-                                                                         was emailed a request to comment on
vestors confirmed that they did in-                                                                        the multiple accusations against his
deed invest in the China franchise,                                                                                           company. He con-
but declined comment on this story.                popular. The shops,                                                        firmed receipt of
   The group is also facing lawsuits from the      despite their relative-                                                    the email, but has
very people who originally defended them.          ly high-end prices,                                                        not responded.
The lawyer, who asked not to be named due          were full to the brim                                                         The irony of this
to an ongoing lawsuit, represented the group       and often selling out                                                      story is that, in a
during their first few years in Shanghai. He is    of stock. However                                                          country where many
now suing Levillair Group for unpaid legal         allegations of ir-                                                         foreigners tell hor-
fees, asking for a 200,000 Euro settlement.        responsible spend-                                                         ror stories about be-
This lawyer is also filing an official complaint   ing soon started the                                                       ing cheated by local
with the French Law Bar Association. If the        string of unpaid bills                                                     Chinese business-
complaint is filed, then no lawyer in France       plus a downgrade in quality.                    men, Holder Group appears to have been
aware of the case will represent the CEO,             Despite this, Levillair Group managed to     taken by a compatriot. They can comfort
Harold Levillair, in court.                        raise four to five million euros to open up     themselves that if they were the first, they
   Employees have been suffering also. Ac-         Pavilion Coste in 2009. This gourmet res-       are unlikely to be the last. Levillair Group
cording to another insider, paychecks have         taurant and lounge was located in Shang-        continues to raise funds and open new estab-
been paid progressively later since February       hai’s ritzy XinTianDi, where rents run          lishments. According to local lifestyle maga-
2010, sometimes nearly a month after they          around RMB 500-600,000/month. Sources           zines, the space once inhabited by Pavilion
were due. Health insurance was cancelled in        say that the group used Paul as a guarantee     Coste in XinTianDi is currently under reno-
2009.                                              when raising funds. Sources also allege that    vation, and will open as a Buddha Bar later
                                                   Levillair Group siphoned a portion of the       this year. While the terms of the contract
How it Began                                       funds intended for Pavilion Coste back into     are not disclosed, the lifestyle website Smart-
   Paul Bakery in China was not always so          the debt-riddled Paul. However, plenty of       Shanghai says management will still be under
riddled with controversy. Mr. Levillair be-        money was still spent on Pavilion Coste; the    the Levillair Group. “How can I explain this?
came involved with Holder Group after his          grand opening revealed four RMB 50,000          [Mr Levillair] has the power to make people
father, who owns a small boutique hotel in         video projectors, expensive sound engineers     dream,” said Mouly. “I dreamed for two
Morocco, introduced his son to the patriarch       from the UK and a renovation by upscale         years with the group, but when I woke up, it
of Holder Group in 2004. After a visit to          interior designer Red Door. The restaurant      was a very hard time indeed. Everyone will
Shanghai with Levillair, Holder became im-         closed its doors eight months later with an-    wake up sooner or later.”
pressed by the city’s vast potential and a fran-   other grand party.                                                                                            July/August 2010                23
Feature Retail

   创建于1889 年的Holder Group 在法国拥有7个知名品牌,其
中最著名的就是Paul's Bakery Paul's 在法国拥有750 家门店,在全
球其他地区拥有100家分店,在韩国, 台湾,中东地区的他们的生
意也日渐红火. 但为何Holder在中国的分支受到了质疑?                       仍是按常付租
   作为Paul’s Bakery 在中国的专营权所有者,人们对Levillair          金。专门负责
Group 的责骂声不断:混乱的财物管理, 拖欠的债务,糟糕的人                    Paul’s门店的          n Monica Liau
事管理。深受其苦的当事人排起了长队,位列其中的有Clasquin                    面包生产工厂停
物流公司,知名食品进口商 Sinodis ,数家专营店投资者,房                    电了。Paul’s的
东,建筑公司,设计公司,员工,甚至连Holder Group 本身也                  古北家乐福门店,可
有份.Paul’s Bakery 的前任营运总监Francis Mouly 估计Levillair   谓是家乐福最赚钱的一家了,但一个月前,他们也歇业关门了。
所欠债务最低在1200 万欧元左右。据相关报道,Holder Group                有一点是明确的,Paul’s欠家乐福9个月的租金,而Mouly说70%
从2009 年也试图夺回Paul's Bakery 的控制权,但对上海的分营店             的欠款已经偿还。
却只能是覆水难收。                                               一些以前在门店里操作和后方办公室里工作的员工称有些
亏本经营                                                执照,有的索性完全不过问这档子事儿。在2008年,Paul’s在
    据说Levillair集团的债务着实令人惊愕。据知情着透                    淮海路上的门店就是因为执照的缘故而关门大吉的。
露, Levillair 欠下 Clasquin100 万元人民币的进口原料费。在
Paul’s工作的后勤工作人员说:“ Clasquin 先帮我们垫付从                 个人损失
法国进口的原料费,但是我们货到后我们却没有付款并开始赊                             然后,这一摊浑水中最失利的要属小公司,合伙人和独立投
帐...每批货物差不多能装满一整个集装箱,价值30 万元人民                      资人。作为Levillair 集团的第一批中国合伙人,Mouly在2009年
币。” 当2009 金融危机开始席卷全球,Clasquin被通知取消贷                 2月份退出了合伙。Mouly说他投资5万欧元本应购买了公司3%的
款享有权并下达命令扣押最后一批烘赔原料(如羊角面包和蛋糕                        股份,他的职位应该是创业合伙人。但这些股份和头衔并没有兑
的发面团)。整批货物被扔在堆场两个多月,而货物的海关费也                        现。Mouly 还说别的投资者损失更为惨重。他们有些是Paul’s
迟迟未付。整批货物最后变质,只得被销毁。Clasquin和法国的                    在卡塔尔和迪拜的阿拉伯投资商。他们原来答应投资600万欧元
Holder Group一向有良好关系,可能得到了一些补偿,但肯定无                  兑换35%的股份。这些阿拉伯商人再也没看到他们的银子流回来
法拿到所有欠款。由于事件尚未完全解决,Clasquin不愿对此多                    过。这四位阿拉伯投资人确认他们在中国门店的投资行为,却拒
加评论。而据可靠消息称,Paul’s Bakery开始选择当地的原料                  绝对此事做进一步评论。
供应商。                                                    集团现也面临起诉,而起诉他们的人正是原来为他们辩护
    支付租金也成了问题。Paul's的门店和工厂也悄无声息的                    的一方。这位不愿透露姓名的律师在集团进驻上海的头几年为
陆续关门歇业。Paul’s的前任员工说不许门店开门营业的是房                      集团担任法务代表。但现在他因Levillair拖欠他的律师费而将
东。Paul’s在波特曼酒店的门店于今年5月停止营业。由于事先                     后者告上法庭。该律师同时也向发过律师协会提出投诉,一旦
                                没有任何通知,投递员          投诉生效,在法国没有律师被允许代表集团首席执行官Harold
                                    只能吃闭门           Levillair出席法庭判决。
                                     羹了。东平              集团的员工也挣扎于水生火热之中。另一位知情人士表示,
                                       路上的          今年2月后,他们断断续续收到了工资,有时候会隔一个月才收
                                         门          到上个月的工资。2009年时他们的医疗保险就被告知停止了。

                                                         Paul’s   Bakery   在中国碰到的并不都是矛盾。2004 年,

24         July/August 2010                                                 
                                                                     Feature Retail

Levillair 先生因为其开一家摩洛哥小旅馆的父                        名声
亲而结识了Holder 集团的掌舵人。Holder 在                           看到如此情况,Holder集团为何方才清醒?虽
与 Levillair 同行参观上海之后,十分看好上                        说Holder集团只收取直营店收益额的5%,他们放任
海的发展前景并答应开直营店。Paul’s 在中                           不管只会在中国这个如此有前景的市场上毁坏自己
国的第一家直营店便由此诞生了。                                   的名声。然而,Mouly仍认为Holder集团也是受害
    Levillair集团2007年华丽进驻上海。那                      者。他说:“Holder想操控Paul’s,但Levillair
一年,他们大量扩张业务,在中国和外国消费                              却百般阻挠,使得前者无计可施。”虽说已有律
者中引起了一阵追捧热潮。人们都十分惊叹                               师事务所介入代表Holder与Levillair谈判,但
Paul’s的扩张速度,也十分赞赏它的品牌形                            至今我们仍不知晓事情会不会有解决的可能性。
象。面包飘香又常常让人垂涎三尺。据称,                               由于事情仍在处理过程中,双方都不愿做更多评
直到2009年,这7家门店仍然处于盈利状态,                            价。Harold  Levillair被邮件通知必须对其公司
因为Paul’s是拥有著名国际品牌支撑的面包                            的职责作出回应,虽声称收到邮件,却迟迟未作出
房,人们颇爱面包。尽管开价颇高,但是面包                              应答。
房仍然很受欢迎,常常供不应求。然而,好景                                  这一事件的可笑之处在于,在中国,当许多
不长,滥用资金很快就引来了债务,人们也指                              外国人抱怨说被中国商人欺骗时,Holder集团似乎
责面包的质量有所下降。                                       成了自己人的枪靶子。他们当然大可安慰自己说虽
    尽管如此,Levillair集团在2009年仍筹                      说这样的事情这次发生在了自己身上,但同样的事
资400-500万欧元建造Pavilion Coste。这家餐                   情一定会再次发生。Levillair集团仍在筹集资金
厅座落于上海新天地,租金大约为5-6万元人                             开设新的店面。据一家本土生活杂志称,Pavilion
民币每月。消息称,集团在筹资时用Paul’s                            Coste现在正在装修,年内将开出一个布达酒吧。
做担保。同时,Levillair集团挪用了小部分Pavilion Coste的   虽然合同的条款并未公开,但生活时尚网站SmartShanghai称酒
启动资金来填补Paul’s的债务漏洞。大部分资金还是花在了餐            吧的经营权仍由Levillair集团掌控。Mouly说:“这一切又从何
厅上。餐厅开张仪式当天,主办方启用了四台价值5万元的投影              解释呢?Levillair就是有本事让人们幻想。我在这个集团做了
仪,还聘用高端室内设计公司红门做内部设计。饭店开张刚8个              两年的美梦,但当我清醒后,一切变得太过可怕。早晚会有那么
月就关门大吉了。                                  一天,所有人都会清醒的。”                                           July/August 2010   25

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