About a year ago, an industry insider told me to keep an eye on the British luxury retailer Matches, which had blown through a series of C.E.O.s after private equity firm Apax Partners bought a majority stake in the business in 2017. The executive had heard that Frasers Group, a conglomerate founded by controversial retail magnate (and former Newcastle United owner) Mike Ashley, was circling the property, waiting for it to either go bankrupt (or enter administration, as they call it in the U.K.) or approach that precipice before acquiring it for a vulture-level price. “Frasers will buy Matches at a fire sale, Matches is highly distressed,” read my note from that conversation.
It took about 12 months for this executive’s prognostication to come true. Earlier this week, the Matches fire sale finally went down. A company that was once worth $1 billion traded hands for $63 million. This news arrived just one day after competitor Farfetch, once worth $23 billion, was bailed out by South Korea-based e-commerce group Coupang with a $500 million loan.