Massenet’s Departure May Smooth Integration of Yoox Net-a-Porter

Net-A-Porter Founder: We're Our Biggest Competition

The departure of Net-a-Porter founder Natalie Massenet may be a blessing in disguise as it removes any confusion about who’s in charge of the online fashion retailer that a merger of her company is set to create.

Massenet’s resignation concentrates power in the hands of Yoox founder Federico Marchetti, who will run the enlarged company, and removes the risk of clashes over strategy, according to analysts including Paola Carboni at Equita SIM. Massenet was to have a reduced role as chairman of the new entity, and as one of Net-a-Porter’s minority shareholders she had disputed the valuation placed on the business, according to people familiar with the matter.

Having Massenet as chairman alongside Marchetti “might have been difficult to manage in the long run,” Carboni said.

While Yoox Net-a-Porter will be losing Massenet’s strong relationships with brands and editorial savvy, her exit could smooth the integration of the businesses, Citigroup Inc. analyst Mauro Baragiola said. Marchetti’s role will be strengthened, according to Mediobanca analyst Chiara Rotelli.

Had Massenet stayed, one possible source of tension was the value of the business that she created in 2000 and sold to Swiss luxury-goods maker Cie. Financiere Richemont SA ten years later. An independent arbitrator ruled last month that the company had a value closer to 1.5 billion pounds ($2.3 billion) as of March 31, rather than the 950 million-pound valuation Richemont agreed with Yoox, according to three people familiar with the matter.

“Clearly happy families would have been a better solution but this was apparently not an option,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst Flavio Cereda wrote in a note. He expects the bulk of Net-a-Porter managers to stay. “It is far better for this situation to be resolved sooner rather than later.”

‘Bigger, Stronger’

Massenet, 50, on Wednesday quit the business she founded 15 years ago, walking away with more than 100 million pounds after selling her shares, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. She leaves Net-a-Porter “bigger, stronger and superbly well-positioned” for the future, the entrepreneur said in a statement Thursday. Massenet declined to comment further on her decision through a spokesman.

Yoox shares rose as much as 6.9 percent in Milan, and were up 5 percent at 27.85 euros at 4:30 p.m.

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