Natalie Massenet
Natalie Massenet

Natalie Massenet, founder and executive chairman of Net-a-Porter, has resigned from the company, according to a statement from the UK luxury retail site’s merger partner Yoox.

Ms Massenet, who started Net-a-Porter in 2000, is leaving the company having received a payment of “well in excess” of €100m, said two people familiar with the matter. The group has been owned by Richemont of Switzerland since 2010.

Yoox, the Italian ecommerce group, agreed in April this year to a merger with Net-a-Porter. It said that as a result of her resignation, Ms Massenet would not be a member of the board of the combined company when the deal closed. The Milan-based Italian group did not provide a reason for her departure.

Ms Massenet had been due to be chairman, with Yoox’s founder Federico Marchetti, who started the Italian ecommerce retailer in 2000, as chief executive. The tie-up, due to close later this year, will create the world’s largest luxury ecommerce group with sales of €1.3bn and 2m customers.

According to industry insiders with direct knowledge of the matter, Ms Massenet resigned with a pay-off well in excess of €100m as a result of the outcome of a dispute with Richemont over the value of the Net-a-Porter group.

Net-a-Porter’s minority shareholders had last month won the dispute on the basis of an independent valuation that suggested Net-a-Porter was worth about £1.5bn — or roughly £500m more than it had been valued at in the deal with Yoox. Ms Massenet received the six-figure payout from Richemont following the independent valuation. One person who had seen the resignation letter Ms Massenet sent to Johann Rupert, head of Richemont, said she had left the group on an amicable basis.

Industry analysts had been sceptical about both Ms Massenet and Mr Marchetti, both strong characters and founders of their own groups, being able to remain together inside the same structure. Oliver Chen, an analyst with Cowen & Company, said at the time of the announced merger that a key risk to the deal was “culture issues”, including the fact that “both founders expected to remain involved”.

While Yoox had established itself in the luxury ecommerce domain, managing the websites for Lanvin, Valentino and a host of other retailers, Ms Massenet was seen as strengthening its fashion credentials. Mr Marchetti, however, had made several clear statements that he would be the boss of the group leading strategy.

Yoox declined to comment. Richemont was not immediately available to comment.

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