Net-a-Porter Founder Quits Mid-Merger With $153 Million Gain

Net-A-Porter Founder: We're Our Biggest Competition
  • Massenet plans to explore `new ideas and opportunities'
  • Departure comes as Net-a-Porter prepares to merge with Yoox

Net-a-Porter founder Natalie Massenet said she plans to explore “new ideas and opportunities” after resigning from the online fashion retailer she founded 15 years ago.

“My entrepreneurial drive is as strong today as it always has been, and my passion for innovation will continue to be my greatest guide in business,” Massenet said in a statement Thursday.

Massenet’s departure comes as the company she created prepares to merge with Italian rival Yoox SpA. The entrepreneur, who was to have been chairman of the combined company, tendered her resignation after returning from a vacation, said a person with direct knowledge of the matter. She leaves with more than 100 million pounds ($153 million) after selling shares in Net-a-Porter, the person said. Massenet, 50, resigned as executive chairman of Net-a-Porter and won’t be on the board of the combined company, Yoox said.

Yoox agreed to buy Net-a-Porter from Cie. Financiere Richemont SA in March. The all-stock deal, which is expected to close this month, will create the world’s largest online luxury-goods retailer. Yoox founder Federico Marchetti will be its chief executive officer.

“Mr. Marchetti always made it quite clear he was going to be the boss of the business going forward,” said John Guy, an analyst at MainFirst AG.

Yoox shares rose 3.8 percent to 27.53 euros at 10:09 a.m. in Milan.

When the merger was announced, Citigroup Inc. analyst Mauro Baragiola said Massenet could help strengthen the merged company’s ties with the luxury industry. Yet Exane BNP Paribas analyst Luca Solca questioned whether it made sense for her to stay as her responsibilities were to be limited to areas such as editorial content and advertising strategy.

Speaking with Bloomberg Television in July, Massenet hinted she would stay. “We’ve only just begun,” Massenet said at the time. After the merger “we’re going to be the same, but bigger,” she said. And in March, Marchetti called her appointment as chairman “a long-term partnership.”

The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority on Wednesday cleared the path for the union, saying it won’t refer the proposed deal for further scrutiny.

Massenet’s resignation comes in the same week LVMH named former Beats Music CEO and Apple Inc. director Ian Rogers as its chief digital officer in a bid to accelerate its efforts online.