Boohoo Lures Ex-Asos Director For £500m IPO
A former director of the online fashion retailer Asos is to become chairman of rival Boohoo.com as it finalises plans for a stock market flotation valuing it at £500m.
Sky News has learnt that Peter Williams, a retail veteran who stepped down from the Asos board last year, is to spearhead the listing of another major internet venture.
Mr Williams' appointment as Boohoo.com's chairman is likely to be confirmed in a statement signalling the company's intention to float, which could come as soon as this Friday, according to insiders.
A successful listing of Boohoo.com would cement a remarkable success for the Manchester-based Kamani family, which is understood to control the majority of the business.
Founded in 2006 by Mahmud Kamani and Carol Kane, who had previously worked together as wholesalers to the fashion market, Boohoo.com sells its own brand of "trend-led clothing" to what the company describes as "fashion forward females" around the world.
It has won several major industry awards, including the 2012 Lorraine High Street Fashion Awards, beating more established competitors including Next and Asos in the Best Online Retailer category.
The company is expected to pitch itself to potential investors as having superior margins to Asos because its range of more than 8,000 products is sold using its own brand, and because of the speed of its supply chain.
Boohoo.com, which also recently launched a menswear range, operates a system called Test and Repeat, enabling it to access initially smaller product quantities at high-volume prices.
Nevertheless, a £500m valuation for a company which recorded profits of just £3.2m last year is likely to prompt suggestions of a bubble in the prices being attributed to businesses with a strong digital growth story.
An insider pointed to a recent restructuring of Boohoo.com, which was likely to result in a substantial jump in this year's profitability.
Boohoo.com's sales grew from £29m in 2012 to £67.3m, with pre-tax profits soaring £0.2m to £3.2m during the same period.
Mr Williams' appointment as chairman will provide added credibility as Boohoo.com attempts to sell itself to City investors.
A non-executive director of Sprtech, the gaming firm, Cineworld, the multiplex operator, and Rightmove, the online estate agent, Mr Williams is among the UK's most experienced public company directors.
He was finance director of Selfridges, chairman of JJB Sports and Blacks Leisure Group, and was also on the board of Capital Radio and Silverstone Holdings, operator of the Northamptonshire racing circuit.
It was unclear on Tuesday how much Boohoo.com, which is being advised by Zeus Capital, would seek to raise by selling existing and new shares. Preliminary meetings with institutions are taking place this week.
Boohoo.com will seek to emulate the success of Asos, which has been a stock market darling since listing a decade ago.
Asos, which has expanded around the world, has become one of the UK fashion industry's biggest success stories. The company now has a market value of almost £6bn.
Brian McBride, the chairman of Asos, recently joined AO.com, the online electrical goods retailer, which is also in the process of floating.
Bricks-and-mortar retailers including Pets At Home, Poundland and House of Fraser are among the other high street names which are trying to raise funds by going public.
A Boohoo.com spokesman declined to comment.
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