Matchesfashion sold to Apax, founders keep small stake, CEO to stay
Matchesfashion confirmed Friday that private equity giant Apax has won the bidding war and is taking a majority stake in the luxury omnichannel retailer. The deal is still subject to some closing conditions but it’s unlikely that anything will derail it.
Neither the retailer nor its new owner have confirmed the purchase price which was rumoured to be around £800 million, a rise on the £600 million value that had been placed on it just a few months ago.
Founders Tom and Ruth Chapman will remain minority shareholders, as will existing venture capital investors Scottish Equity Partners (SEP) and Highland Europe, when the deal completes within the next three months.
Despite the new ownership, it appears that there will be little immediate change with the two senior executives, CEO Ulric Jerome and CFO Fiona Greiner, staying in their roles. But that’s no surprise given the success that the company has seen in Jerome’s time at the helm with growth having been in very high double-digits last year and reported to be impressively strong this year too.
Jerome said that Apax’s experience in the “consumer and technology spaces will be a great fit with our business.” And of course, the deep pockets of the new owners will help as Matchesfashion battles for an increasing share of the luxury e-tail space against rivals such as net-A-Porter, Farfetch and MyTheresa. And that rreally matters as it works on its plan to become “the number one luxury fashion commerce company in the world.”
While the explosive growth enjoyed by the firm in recent periods has been a direct result of its decision to move into online retail a decade ago, the company retains a significant physical retail presence with four London area stores. And it's reported to be planning to add to this with a Mayfair location set to open next year. Physical stores remain key for luxury operators and for Matchesfashion they help add an extra layer of personalisation and VIP services to the offer.
So how involved will the Chapmans be in the future? Tom Chapman said of the ownership change: “After 30 years of growing this business Ruth and I are ready to take on new challenges while remaining shareholders and taking on an advisory role.”
They had already begun handing more responsibility to others in recent years, with Jerome’s appointment being the best example of this. So while they remain involved, the future of the business clearly rests on the shoulders of Ulric Jerome and his team who so far have certainly shown they’re up to the task.
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