BERLIN — Hudson’s Bay Co. has a new top man in Europe: Wolfgang Link.
On Thursday, HBC said Link has been named chief executive officer of HBC Europe, effective May 1. Link was most recently chairman of Toys ‘R’ Us Central Europe and since 2013 served as president of Toys ‘R’ Us Europe as well as being a member of the company’s global management board.
In his new HBC position, Link will oversee the group’s German and Belgian department store chains, Galeria Kaufhof and Galeria Inno, respectively, as well as the launch of Hudson’s Bay and Saks Off 5th in Europe. He will report directly to HBC ceo Jerry Storch.
Don Watros, president of HBC International and chairman of the supervisory board of Galeria Kaufhof, will remain in that position, but will reportedly be spending more time in the U.S. to further advance the group’s cost-cutting operations in North America.
In other key changes, Galeria Kaufhof’s ceo Olivier Van den Bossche is stepping down from his post, effective April 30. Bossche held the top position at the more than 100 door chain since October 2014. A successor has not been named.
There have been widespread rumors of friction between Van den Bossche and Watros over HBC’s markdown strategy, which Van den Bossche is said to have found too aggressive, as well as differences of opinion over the importance of the chain’s gourmet department, which Watros had scaled back.
Another bone of contention was the rate and extent of renovations at the Galeria Kaufhof stores, with market sources speaking of a planned reduction of funds. In an official statement Thursday, Richard Baker, governor and executive chairman of HBC, emphasized the group “continues to stand behind our long-term strategy for Europe and behind the announcement that we will be investing 1 billion euros [$1.06 billion] in Germany in the next five to seven years.”
There has been speculation that the launch of Saks Off 5th, which is due to premiere in Düsseldorf this summer, may eat up a considerable part of those funds. Further rollouts are planned for later in the year in Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Heidelberg and Wiesbaden, as well as in the Netherlands. HBC has said it can envision up to 40 Saks Off 5th doors opening in Germany over the next few years.