Natalie Massenet has announced that she is stepping down as executive chairman of Net-a-porter Group. A move that comes as no surprise to many, as they have expected this since Net-a-Porter's parent company, Richemont, announced a merger with Yoox.com.
Massenet was lined up to be executive chairman of the new joint company with defined responsibilities, but she now has severed all ties with the company and won't be a member of the board of directors of the new group.
The newly formed company would see Yoox founder, Federico Marchetti, as the functional head of the new group working under the title of chief executive officer and effectively in charge, restricting Massenet's role to a strategic and communications one.
However, sources say that the real discord isn't between Massenet and Marchetti, but rather with Richemont itself. It is after all, her current role as executive chairman of Net-a-Porter that she is resigning from, not the future position with the merged company.
Much of the conflict between Net-a-Porter and it's financier has sprung from the issue of profitability. Richemont wants to see Net-a-Porter churning profits like Yoox, and believe that Marchetti is the man to make that happen. But opposition say that Net-a-Porter's role is more widespread than a financial bottom line. It has been a massive industry influencer, its focus is on content (Massenet is a journalist after all) and members of its board also contest Richmont's valuations of the company which pinned it at $1.57 billion, but independent valuers landed on a figure of $2.34 billion.
The news of Massenet's departure has hardly settled and speculation has already begun regarding her next move. She has a 12-month non-compete agreement with Richemont that eliminates the chance that she might pop up at another online retailer. But questions over her position as chairwoman of the British Fashion Council and whether she will continue her work there are already being asked. Some insiders have even suggested that she might end up on Condé Nast's short list of candidates to one day succeed Anna Wintour as editor-in-chief of American Vogue. Stay tuned to Buro 24/7 Middle East for more on this story as it develops...