TROUBLED BOO.COM SAYS IT WILL LIQUIDATE
NEW YORK — Embattled Internet retailer Boo.com issued a statement late Wednesday in London announcing the liquidation of the company.
A spokeswoman confirmed the liquidation, but could not be reached for further comment. A recorded message at the company’s New York offices referred callers to a statement posted on an Internet site or to Boo.com’s London headquarters.
In the statement, two of the e-tailer’s founding members, model Kajsa Leander and fellow Swede Ernst Malmsten, said, “We are deeply disappointed that it has been necessary to ask accounting firm KPMG to become liquidators of the company.
“The senior management of Boo.com has made strong efforts over the last few weeks to raise the additional funds which would have allowed the company to go forward with a clear plan. This plan involved a restructuring of the retail operations, the development of an e-fulfillment business using our unique advanced technology and operations platform and the identification of strategic partners.
“It’s all the more disappointing to the management and staff alike that it has not been possible to bring this to fruition against the background of steadily improved trading.”
It is believed that as many as 300 jobs may be affected.
Plagued by escalating problems and a cash crisis, Boo.com since February had been seeking a buyer or more funding to continue operations, as reported in these columns. Boo has not revealed the level of startup capital it raised, but estimates range from $125 million to $200 million.
Thanks to its high-profile investors, including avid Internaute Bernard Arnault, Boo.com was the subject of torrents of publicity — and great expectations for its innovative graphics and hip mix of athletic footwear and fashions.
But it suffered from a rash of technological glitches, weak sales and, as a result, trouble building a base of customers for its authentic outdoor brands, classic sport labels and designer apparel with a techno edge.
Boo has suffered from an exodus of executives, among them Patrick Hedelin, one of Boo’s founders, who in February stepped down as executive chairman, assuming a nonexecutive role and relocating to his native Stockholm; former merchandising chief Michael Skidmore, who left the company in March to join shopping portal LuuLuu.com as executive vice president of global markets, and former finance director Dean Hawkins, who departed Boo in April to join another startup, the Dutch Internet service provider Chello, which is preparing an initial public offering.
Boo apparently was overly ambitious with its launch last November of its site in a dozen countries in multiple languages, a scope that, at that time, gave it one of the highest profiles online — as did its feverish spending on marketing to lure cyber-shoppers with the new brand.
As speculation about Boo.com’s future mounted, Arnault has remained mum on his future investment intentions, if any, regarding Boo.
Europ@web, Arnault’s Internet investment vehicle, holds an 8.5 percent stake in Boo, based in London. The stake was characterized by the company as strictly a nonstrategic, financial investment.