Startups

Moulding is no villain but he’s better off not trying to play the hero


Matthew Moulding has, by just about anybody’s standards, been an extraordinary business success story. His origin story as an entrepreneur is a very British, self-made one; inspired by buying a CD online, he has built and floated his THG business which as a rule does the thing it was meant to do (flog stuff online with some tech wizardry behind it making that work better than it otherwise would have) very well. When he became a billionaire after THG’s flotation, he gave £100m to charity. He’s not a bad man.

But it is also true that he is becoming bigger than his company, and that’s a dangerous place to be. Over the weekend it was reported that – fresh from Moulding’s myriad complaints about short sellers – his mother was now taking her frustrations out on journalists and their ‘dead end jobs’ (no comment).

Whether it was those comments or (rather more likely) a note from Citi which saw profit forecasts slashed, the City’s new favourite whipping boy took another few lashes yesterday, with shares down 12 per cent.

Moulding seems to be deeply unhappy under the scrutiny of the stock market and his company’s share price is suffering as a result.

What Moulding should do, ironically, is trust the stock market. There is a very good business somewhere in THG, but it is currently hidden by his diatribes, his Instagram page and now his mother’s grumpiness. There will come a point when investors decide the stock is so cheap they cannot lose; it is unlikely that the great global public is set to imminently fall out of love with online shopping.

There is a recovery story to be written. Installing some proper governance, and allowing investors to see the rubies in the rubble, will see Moulding right. The complaints about short sellers and the stock market – now joined by his mother’s complaints about the financial press – are unlikely to put the muscle back into THG’s share price.



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