THG boss and founder Matthew Molding – dubbed the ‘Buff Billionaire’ for his rags-to-riches history and gym bunny physique – wishes he had never taken his company public.

After telling a conference last year that he shouldn’t have listed in London for a $7.7 billion IPO in September 2020, and that the experience “just sucked from the start in the end,” the fact that this week he pushed back on takeover rumors is unlikely to have softened his mood.

Indeed, while Manchester-based THG runs highly successful beauty and nutrition websites including Lookfantastic, Cult Beauty and Myprotein, THG and Molding have rarely made headlines, with the latest this week forcing Molding to dismiss the “many” approaches to takeover as “unacceptable”. ”, saying they were undervaluing the company at a time when he would much rather talk about robust trading.

The company has confirmed that while there has been interest from third parties, the company is not currently involved in any discussions, but the real question is where now for THG and its tonic titan?

From backroom to billionaire

It all started in 2004 when the ingenious Molding raised $640,000 and created The Hut Group to sell music and DVDs online. By 2017, the company had pivoted to become one of the UK’s few tech unicorns, worth $3.2 billion and selling beauty and nutrition. In typically contrary style, amid the pandemic, THG is listed on the London Stock Exchange with the biggest London IPO in years.

Yet the spark quickly wore off and since Molding has had a mixed relationship with critics of his company, slamming the city and financial journalists for their coverage and analysis, and handing a case to regulators for what THG described. as a coordinated attack on its share price.

Responding to the latest coverage, Molding said the board had “concluded that every proposal to date was unacceptable, did not reflect the fair value of the group, and confirmed that THG was not currently receiving any approach”.

THG shares away from peak hours

The news sent THG shares up 15% to around $1.41 – but damn it, they needed it, with trading well above the IPO price of $6.43 and around 87% off. their high of $10.76 in September 2021.

That was only seven months ago.

Since then, THG has been battered and bruised, including for allowing Molding to serve as both executive chairman and chief executive, which goes against corporate governance standards. Indeed, THG appears to have been determined to keep raising its head above the parapet, with the board also signing a pre-float agreement allowing Molding to acquire a number of THG properties before leasing them out. to the company for approximately $24.4 million per year. . He says it was a way to reduce the debt.

More and more scared by the turbulence, last November, BlackRock

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, THG’s largest institutional shareholder with a 10.1% stake, halved its stake, causing the stock’s value to fall 9% to a then-record low of $2.53. Molding tried to calm investors’ nerves by hiring headhunter Russell Reynolds to search for a new non-executive chairman, with business luminary Charles Allen taking the role on March 22, in a move designed to help him prepare to a premium listing on the main London Stock Exchange rather than its current standard listing.

THG has also named an executive from its Japanese backer SoftBank as a non-executive director, in a bid to dispel doubts about its relationship with SoftBank, which invested $730 million in THG last year.

THG posts solid results

The irony is that news of the deals came just as THG confirmed a 35% increase in revenue to $2.8 billion, helping to push adjusted profit up 7% to $207 million. First-quarter results also showed a 16% jump in revenue to $669 million.

Molding said it was a strong performance that was ahead of the targets set when THG went public and he highlighted the strong performance of Ingenuity, a division that builds websites for directly to consumers for other businesses, which is a key part of the company’s growth plans. .

Regarding the UK IPO, Molding previously said: “Now there’s a reason why I should have gone [to the U.S.], and in fact I would not have had a profile too, which would have been fine with me. No one would have written about me if I had been listed in the United States. But it’s like that. Next year [2022]that will be another lesson.