Britain’s Newest Billionaire Got Rich on Protein Powder and DVDs
A customer browses CDs inside the HMV Canada Inc. flagship store in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photographer: Cole Burston/Bloomberg)

Britain’s Newest Billionaire Got Rich on Protein Powder and DVDs

On his account, Matthew Moulding’s online retail business almost destroyed his personal finances back in the day. Today, it’s putting him among the world’s ultra-rich.

THG Holdings Ltd., the British e-commerce operator he co-founded, surged 25% on its trading debut after the company raised 1.9 billion pounds ($2.4 billion) in Europe’s second-largest listing this year and the biggest on the London Stock Exchange since June 2017. Moulding’s stake was worth about $2 billion as of the last close. The stock slipped 3.8% at 8:30 a.m. in London Thursday.

It’s a rare emergence of a major tech fortune in the U.K. While the coronavirus pandemic has fueled the wealth of entrepreneurs in e-commerce, video conferencing and online gaming globally, the sector has remained relatively quiet in Britain, where industrialists and aristocratic land owners such as Jim Ratcliffe and Hugh Grosvenor dominate the top ranks of the nation’s richest.

A spokesman for THG declined to comment.

Moulding, 48, studied industrial economics at University of Nottingham, qualified as an accountant and worked for British billionaire John Caudwell before setting up The Hut Group -- as THG was previously known -- in 2004 with John Gallemore, the company’s chief financial officer. They started out selling CDs and DVDs but now oversee a company operating websites including Coggles.com and Myprotein.com, which sell beauty and nutrition products.

THG is being perceived as a “hot stock” because of its technology platform that enables it to offer solutions for big, fast-moving consumer-goods companies, rather than for its online retail business, said Colin McLean, chief investment officer at SVM Asset Management.

The company is valued at 6.1 billion pounds after offering about 376 million shares -- or 35% of the e-commerce operator -- at 5 pounds each. The IPO was particularly popular, with underwriters finding takers for all the stock in less than 20 minutes.

Moulding owns about a quarter of the Manchester, U.K.-based company, whose revenue rose 36% to 675.6 million pounds in the six months to June 30. He controls a stake in an investment firm that sold 54 million pounds of shares in the IPO. In addition, the company transferred ownership of some warehouses, two boutique hotels and a country club and spa to the entrepreneur before the listing, according to its prospectus.

“It’s been a lively journey so far, especially in the early years,” Moulding said in an Instagram post in July. “Thankfully, both PCs and our own websites have come a very long way since 2004.”

THG’s offering included one feature that’s unusual in the U.K.: The company gave Moulding a so-called golden or founder share that will enable him to veto hostile takeover attempts for three years. Moulding defended the move in an interview with Bloomberg last month, saying the company has already received takeover interest and is focused on becoming a “global player.”

“Tech is massive this year -- everyone has done so well from the pandemic in e-commerce, and the valuations are quite appealing for a company that needs the capital,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Maxime Boucher said about THG’s listing. “THG are slightly profitable but are planning to spend 50 to 150 million pounds a year on M&A. They are going to need cash.”

Wednesday was a big day for stock debuts. In the U.S., shares of cloud-computing company Snowflake Inc. more than doubled in the best first-day pop since at least 2008, spurring a flood of wealth for Silicon Valley’s biggest names, while software firm JFrog Ltd. rallied 47%.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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