Munich Everything was done. “We were model students,” says Thomas Selkirk. The company was restructured, the costs reduced, and an investor with fresh capital was won. On March 16, the Dolzer tailors were released from the bankruptcy proceedings. More than 400 jobs in Germany and the Czech Republic were saved. But only two days later, the 18 branches had to be closed due to the corona pandemic.
And now owner Selkirk is sitting at home in his library, shirt and jacket made in-house, trying to save what can be saved. “We can hold it out for a few weeks,” he says, “but it will be tight with a second or third shutdown.” He hopes for a KfW aid loan. However, only companies that were in good health at the end of 2019 should be supported. But at that time the Lower Franconian company was in the middle of the bankruptcy proceedings.
It is unclear whether it is now – actually successfully renovated – entitled to state aid. “It cannot be right that a good 400 jobs in a company that is currently healthy are now endangered again simply because the legislature – albeit unintentionally – did not have important special cases in view,” said Christian Graf Brockdorff, ex-administrator at Dolzer and Partner at the law firm BBL. “The companies here need to quickly adapt the regulations.”
Born in England, Selkirk worked for Roland Berger and PwC after studying in Oxford, but his own company was always his dream. In 1995 he took over the company founded in 1963 as the Adolf Dolzer clothing factory. The company employs made-to-measure manufacturers who measure customers using a standard size system. Customers can then put together their own personal garment from certain models and fabrics, which is manufactured in the Czech Republic.
Business has not gotten any easier – it is not only in start-ups that T-shirts are worn more often today instead of tailor-made jackets. However, under Selkirk, Dolzer developed into the market leader in its segment. And so he wanted to withdraw a bit in 2018 and brought in an external managing director. But he did not understand the processes and let the costs get out of hand. When Selkirk came back and brought fresh capital, it was too late. A protective shield procedure followed, followed by bankruptcy.
New majority shareholder
The self-administered bankruptcy proceedings were lifted after just under four months. Selkirk had managed to get branches and jobs with the administrator Graf Brockdorff and the restructuring manager York Zieren from Brödermann Jahn.
In addition, Michael Bork became a new majority shareholder. The partner of the private equity firm Equistone was a Dolzer customer and was involved with private funds. “Dolzer stands for the style of the time and is a leader in quality, fit and price”, he explains his commitment. “The clothing is made absolutely sustainably, there are no warehouses with finished goods.”
At the moment, however, the employees are on short-time work; only in Břeclav in the Czech Republic do 20 employees still make masks and protective coats. Existing customers whose dimensions are known can reorder clothes, the online shop is also open.
But it’s not the time for shopping. “We did everything we could to get out of the misery,” says Selkirk, but now the book of action has been taken out of his hands. He did everything: If the shutdown ends after Easter, he has a chance. Otherwise he is dependent on help from the state and banks.
More: Corona is putting many fashion companies in trouble.