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Matches, Net-a-Porter & Retail Roulette

Mytheresa C.E.O. Michael Kliger
Mytheresa C.E.O. Michael Kliger has kept the business admirably focused amid his decade in charge. Photo: Roger Kisby/Getty Images
Lauren Sherman
May 2, 2024

On Monday, British retail group Frasers bought back the intellectual property of Matches, the bankrupt company it acquired late last year for a pittance—only to subsequently realize that its prospects were vanquished and its debts insurmountable. What’s going on here? Well, since Frasers put the business into administration—the British equivalent to Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection—it’s perfectly legal for the group to buy back the I.P. without buying back all the debts. So most, if not all, of the brand partners owed money by Matches will never see it.

This transaction doesn’t mean Frasers will try to rehabilitate the business, however. On the contrary, I’m told Frasers executives have been properly admonished that many major brands will not work with them. Fashion is built on relationships, and Tom and Ruth Chapman, the founders of Matches, were famous for them. Frasers may be viewed as a déclassé organization with a downstairs founder—a major turn-off for snobby fashion execs—but the bigger issue is that most of the Matches remainders, especially the most senior leadership, didn’t have connections with these brands. They were also hellbent on scale, whereas Matches perennially loved to brag that its average order value was among the highest in the industry—a detail, of course, that seemed to confirm that it was patronized by true luxury shoppers. Anyway, all that brand equity has been vaporized in a flash.