(Reuters) — Net-a-porter founder Natalie Massenet stands to make more than 100 million euros, or about $125 million, next year under a deal with the online fashion retailer’s owner Richemont, according to calculations based on company documents and analyst valuations.
Massenet, executive chairman of Net-a-porter, is gathering estimates on the value of the business from potential bidders and bankers, financial advisers said.
That has sparked media speculation that luxury goods group Richemont may be looking to sell or float Net-a-porter.
However, several London-based bankers told Reuters they were not aware Richemont was planning to do either.
Instead, Massenet’s actions may be linked to an agreement with Richemont that could give her a big payout next year, based on Net-a-porter’s value.
“It would make sense for Massenet to put feelers out,” one London-based financial adviser said on condition of anonymity. “But I don’t think it would make sense for Richemont to float the business.”
Richemont, which makes the bulk of its profits from jewellers such as Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, acquired control of Net-a-porter in 2010 in a deal that valued it at 392 million euros.
It gave Massenet shares that “carry an economic entitlement equivalent to 14 percent of the increase in equity value of N-A-P (Net-a-porter) over the period to 31 March 2015”, according to the group’s annual report of 2010.
Net-a-porter has broken even this year at the operating level and analysts forecast sales will reach around 700 million euros, or about $871 million at current exchange, in the fiscal year ending March 31.
Using peers such as Asos and Yoox as a benchmark, analysts said Net-a-porter could be worth around 1.4 billion euros. On that basis, the increase in equity value would be 1 billion euros, or $1.24 billion, and Massenet’s earn-out 140 million euros, or $174 million.
Richemont’s accounts show it has been making provisions of around 21 million euros a year since 2010 in anticipation of the earn-out payment, giving it a pot of about 105 million, or nearly $131 million, by March.
Massenet still indirectly owns 4 percent of Net-a-porter while Mark Sebba, who resigned as its long-standing chief executive this summer, also owns a small holding together with other senior managers.
They too are entitled to a share of the company’s increase in equity value but Massenet is to get the bulk of the sum, sources close to Richemont said.
A Richemont spokesman and Massenet, who is also chairman of the British Fashion Council, declined to comment on the details of the agreement or a potential sale of Net-a-porter.
Financial advisers said Richemont did not need to sell the business for Massenet to get her big check.
Analysts said Richemont, with a cash pile expected to reach 5.2 billion euros, or $6.47 billion, by March, was under no pressure to look for a buyer for Net-a-porter, while volatile equity markets made a flotation appear unlikely.
What’s more, Net-a-porter has been a success for a company which has had mixed fortunes with its fashion business, such as the loss-making Lancel brand, which it tried to sell for years in vain.
“Net-a-porter has helped Richemont have more faith in e-commerce and it has served them well,” HSBC luxury goods analyst Antoine Belge said, noting that Cartier’s online store in the United States was the brand’s fourth-biggest outlet by sales.
Net-a-porter has established itself as a fashion authority with its carefully curated looks, selling Miu Miu pumps for 490 euros, or $610, and Valentino dresses for nearly 3,000 euros, or $3,732.
While it would make sense for Net-a-porter to tie up with luxury industry leader LVMH which has less developed its online operations than rival Kering, it is unlikely Richemont would allow the business to be sold to such a close competitor, financial advisers said.
Exane BNP Paribas said U.S. retailer Amazon would be a logical bidder as it is keen to expand in luxury goods and it might be wise for Richemont to unlock some value from the company now as competition is set to increase.
Financial advisers said Massenet last year scuppered tie-up talks with Yoox, which manages the online stores of Kering brands such as Saint Laurent and Bottega Veneta.
Industry sources say Pascal Cagni, Apple’s former head of Europe, could become the next chief executive of Net-a-porter after having done consulting work for the online company for several years, as reported by WWD.