(Reuters) - Businessman Josef Liokumovich bought a 60% stake in the Russian assets of German hardware store chain OBI for a nominal $10 sum after the Russian side settled debts, the entrepreneur told Forbes Russia in an interview published on Monday.
Tengelmann retail group, which owns OBI, was not immediately available for comment.
OBI GmbH said in March that it was leaving Russia after Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine, and in late July, the Vedomosti newspaper reported that OBI had found buyers for its Russian business.
Liokumovich told Forbes he paid 600 roubles ($9.84) for the German chain of DIY stores, which includes 27 hypermarkets in Russia and employs about 4,900 people.
In 2019, Liokumovich was in talks to buy OBI's business for 100 million euros ($102.3 million), he said. Liokumovich said he knew Karl-Erivan Haub, chief of Tengelmann, for years. Haub disappeared in 2018 when he failed to return from an off-piste skiing tour in the Alps.
Liokumovich did not reveal who bought the remaining stake in OBI's Russian business, adding only that it was an "honest partner" who was prepared to grow the company.
He told Forbes they had settled more than 30 million euros of debt with the Russian chain's parent company, without providing other details, and that they were planning to expand the business.
They will begin the process of rebranding stores in September, Liokumovich said, a key condition in the deal to sell OBI in Russia.
"We have the ambitious task of making a more technological, more customer-oriented, more efficient company, which will become a prominent player in Russia's DIY market," Forbes quoted Liokumovich as saying.
OBI, which has more than 640 stores in Central and Eastern Europe, said in April that its shops in Russia were and will remain permanently closed as a result of Moscow's actions in Ukraine.
Liokumovich said the new company will ensure continuity in its operations, but will work with Russian suppliers and is planning to switch the background music played in-store from foreign to Russian music.
($1 = 61.0000 roubles)
($1 = 0.9776 euros)
(Reporting by Reuters; editing by David Evans)