The Clock Is Ticking at Farfetch With a Potential Rescue in Sight – WWD

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LONDON — Time is running out for the troubled Farfetch, which will likely have a new owner, or cease to exist in its current state, by Christmas. 

WWD has learned that there are at least two investors looking to swoop in and rescue Farfetch

While the identity of one could not be learned, it’s understood to be a company and not a private investor.

The other is Carmen Busquets, known for her savvy, early-stage investments in tech-driven brands. She is looking to raise between $500 million and $1 billion to rescue the company, and has proposed a five-year plan with the aim of driving fast growth and profitability.

Busquets, a businesswoman and entrepreneur, is best known as the majority cofounding investor of Net-a-porter and as a vocal proponent of sustainability. She has invested in start-ups in the U.S. and Britain including Farfetch, Moda Operandi, Flowerbx, Tagwalk, Cult Beauty and the cosmetics brand Dr Jackson’s.

Carmen Busquets

Courtesy Photo

“Fundamentally, I believe in the fashion and technology marketplace sector and I believe Farfetch remains the leading company in the industry. It has driven fundamental change to the distribution of fashion globally over the last 15 years,” Busquets told WWD.

“The industry is cyclical, and Farfetch is navigating a complex environment, made harder with the complexities of managing multiple corporate transactions. Farfetch remains a strategic asset, and given the collapse in market confidence and valuations in the sector there are a number of strategic tie-ups and consolidation opportunities for Farfetch as a leading e-commerce platform for the 21st century,” she added.

In the event that a rescue does not materialize from either investor, Farfetch has already lined up administrators in the U.K., where the head office is based. 

We really have that DNA of resiliency and frugality and we’ve grown this business from those humble, very humble origins…”

Jose Neves, Farfetch

If administrators take control, Farfetch assets — including Browns, New Guards Group, Stadium Goods, Farfetch’s $200 million stake in Neiman Marcus and its Platform Solutions IP — would be sold to pay off the principal debt holders, who are mainly institutional investors.

A source close to Farfetch said that whatever happens in the short term, it will be business as usual for the company’s suppliers, customers and partners.

Two of Farfetch’s biggest commercial partners, Compagnie Financière Richemont and Alibaba, are both keeping their distance and are not interested in rescuing the company.  

Richemont was in the final stages of a deal to sell a 47.5 percent stake in Yoox Net-a-porter to Farfetch, but has already said it won’t invest in the ailing company. Alibaba is said to have been willing to put money in, but did not want to buy Farfetch outright.

Last month Richemont said it has “no financial obligations toward Farfetch,” and it does not envisage lending or investing in the company. The luxury giant also said it was “reviewing its options in respect of its arrangements with Farfetch,” calling into question the transfer of YNAP.

Richemont said its maisons and YNAP had not yet adopted Farfetch Platform Solutions, which was part of a wider deal forged with the fashion platform in 2022. 

Farfetch has a separate partnership with Richemont and Alibaba, for distribution in China.

The Chinese e-comm giant’s president Mike Evans resigned last week from Farfetch’s board, which the luxury platform attributed to the “furtherance of the arm’s-length commercial relationship between Alibaba…and the company.”

An investor who does not hold shares in Farfetch and who spoke on condition of anonymity said that whatever happens, Farfetch needs to find a way to preserve its core tech expertise.

The investor added that Farfetch should build a new, smaller business around its tech IP, “without getting muddled up in fashion, branding or marketing ever again.”

Many say that tech expertise remains Farfetch’s superpower, with founder José Neves and the Farfetch team continuing to help brands strategize about digital retail, customer and shop-floor experiences. 

Chanel’s president of fashion Bruno Pavlovsky told WWD last week that while the French brand no longer holds a stake in Farfetch, the two groups still work together.

“We continue to collaborate, brainstorm together and talk about the future of retail and our relationship with the customer. We are talking about many different initiatives to nourish the future of our boutiques, such as AI tools, to better understand the needs of the customer. We might not end up using those tools, but we want to understand what they mean,” Pavlovsky said.

jose neves

Farfetch’s José Neves

Courtesy photo

Despite its allure of uniting the luxury world online, Farfech’s business model has always raised eyebrows among investors and industry members. But Neves has been able to turn things around before, by posting a promising quarter or inking a new high-profile partnership with a big luxe name. 

Neves, who leads the business as chairman and chief executive officer, was both architect of Farfetch’s grand vision and technology and relentless cheerleader. 

In August, after the company axed its push into beauty and said it eliminated $150 million of planned fixed costs this year over a couple months, Neves put a brave face on the situation and, as usual, remained optimistic. 

“This company was built from zero, from nothing, and actually launched in 2008, amid a global financial crisis,” Neves told WWD at the time.

“We got our first venture capital money in 2010, so the first three years were just my money, which was no money. And so we really have that DNA of resiliency and frugality and we’ve grown this business from those humble, very humble origins to be a global platform present in all large luxury goods markets in the world.…The North Star of this company remains absolutely intact, which is to be the global platform for luxury.”

Even so, the money-losing operation has seen its valuation steadily shrivel.

While shares rebounded on Wednesday, rising 18.2 percent to close at 74 cents, the stock has still lost more than 41 percent of its value this week alone, and is well off its 52-week high of $8.02.

Earlier this week, Moody’s Investors Service lowered its rating of Farfetch to “Caa2” from “B3,” and put Farfetch on review for a further downgrade. The Moody’s decision came a week after Standard & Poor’s cut its rating on the luxury platform.

According to industry sources, the YNAP deal, which was supposed to close before the end of 2023, will not go through if the company goes into administration, although it could still be resuscitated if a new owner were to take over.

As reported, Farfetch has also been speaking to potential investors including Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group, about Browns and its stock.

Spokespeople for Farfetch and Frasers declined to comment.

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