Matchesfashion.com May Be for Sale, Sources Say

LONDON — Are Tom and Ruth Chapman about to get even richer?

The couple, who this year are marking the 30th anniversary of Matchesfashion.com, already have an estimated fortune of 160 million pounds ($207 million) and rank 694 on The Sunday Times Rich List. If market reports are to be believed, their wealth could skyrocket soon — or not.

This week, Sky News reported that the retailer that started as a single shop in London’s Wimbledon Village could be valued at 600 million pounds and that private equity suitors were circling. But according to financial sources, that figure is looking more like 650 million pounds — or even higher — based on current fashion tech valuations.

In 2016, Matchesfashion.com’s revenues surged 61 percent year-on-year to just over 204 million pounds, while earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA, came to 19 million pounds — nearly six times higher than the previous year.

Although the company declined to offer projections for 2017, sources said revenues could exceed 300 million pounds, with profits heading toward 40 million pounds.

Based on the multiples tossed around for competitors Yoox Net-a-Porter Group and Farfetch, a Matchesfashion.com valuation could range anywhere from 650 million pounds to 770 million pounds — or even higher — making it another British unicorn.

That’s only if the Chapmans, who own a majority stake with Scottish Equity Partners as a minority partner, are in the mood to sell. If they are, it’s unclear whether they’d part with a minority or a majority stake. Private equity generally prefers the latter.

“They’re no doubt having talks with interested parties, but any sale will hinge very much on what the Chapmans actually want,” said a financial source.

Matchesfashion.com has declined to comment on the speculation. According to an internal memo seen by Women’s Wear Daily, they were quick to dismiss rumors about a sale last month as “just speculation.”

Sources familiar with the company have said the Chapmans often field calls and have conversations with potential buyers. In 2015, they were forced to deny British press reports that they had hired Morgan Stanley to look at strategic options for the business, including an initial public offering.

An IPO could still be on the cards, although the company is not commenting on that either. Tom Chapman said in 2015 that a stock market listing was a possibility in the medium term, so putting out feelers to get a valuation would make sense.

No one is commenting on the Sky speculation — not Catalyst Corporate Finance, which Sky said is running the sale process, or Apax Partners, Bain Capital, KKR or Permira, which are said to be among a clutch of potential bidders.

In the meantime, Matchesfashion.com is speeding ahead with expansion.

On Monday, the company announced a new East London creative hub. The office space, which is located at Here East Studios at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and spans 24,000 square feet, will house the company’s photography, video and editorial teams in state-of-the-art facilities.

In fiscal 2016, the retailer began offering an on-demand 90-minute delivery service across London, launched a customized French-language site and delivered 165 tech products aimed at improving the online shopping experience.

The company has also been pushing ahead with innovation in the fields of artificial intelligence and 360-degree technology in a bid to ramp up levels of service and keep customers shopping. The company also plans to open more stand-alone sites in countries beyond France.

“Fashion is the one industry that has the lowest Internet penetration, so the opportunity is massive,” Ulric Jerome, the company’s chief executive officer, told WWD in an interview this year. “This is why I think it’s an amazing time for our business and for the industry in general.”

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