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The Hut Group changes chair in board shake-up

Sky News logo Sky News 19/11/2018 Mark Kleinman, City editor
a woman taking a selfie: The Hut Group is one of the fastest-growing tech start-ups © Other The Hut Group is one of the fastest-growing tech start-ups

Sky News has learnt that The Hut Group will say on Tuesday that Matthew Moulding, its founder and chief executive, will become executive chairman in the new year.

Mr Moulding will take over the chairmanship from Richard Pennycook, the former Co-op Group chief executive, who has been on The Hut Group's board for six years.

Alongside the change of chairman, the digital platform's beauty chief, Rachel Horsefield, will join its board as an executive director.

Zillah Byng-Thorne, the boss of media group Future, will also become a board member and chair of its audit committee, having advised the company for the last four years.

The changes will boost the number of women on The Hut Group's board at a time of continuing scrutiny of major employers' gender diversity.

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The company, which has previously reported a below-average gender pay gap of 6%, is expected to say that stripping out its male-dominated technology function would reveal that female employees earn on average 6% more than their male counterparts.

Mr Moulding's elevation to become executive chairman is likely to be interpreted as a sign that The Hut Group has little intention of pursuing an initial public offering in the near term, given the preference of public market investors for the chair and chief executive's roles to be held independently.

Dominic Murphy, a seasoned private equity executive, is expected to become the company's senior independent director as part of the changes.

a large white building with Design Museum in the background: The Hut Group is based in Manchester. Pic: THG © Other The Hut Group is based in Manchester. Pic: THG The boardroom changes come at the end of another active year for one of the UK's fastest-growing private companies, with hundreds of millions of pounds spent on acquisitions.

In recent months, The Hut Group has acquired beauty businesses such as Acheson & Acheson, a beauty contract manufacturer and product developer, in a deal understood to be worth more than £50m.

It has also bought technology companies including Language Connect, which provides translation services.

The ongoing spending spree has come amid The Hut Group's decision to reject a string of investment and takeover offers valuing it at nearly £4bn.

The company sold a stake last year to Merian Global Investors, an asset manager, but has sufficient debt firepower to fund all but the largest acquisitions.

© Getty Its portfolio also includes brands such as ESPA, Mio Skincare, Grow Gorgeous and Lookfantastic.com.

Based in Manchester‎, The Hut Group was set up in 2004 by Mr Moulding and John Gallemore.

It employs more than 3,000 people and has said that it expects that figure to double by 2019.

Last year, it grew sales by 47% to £736m, with international sales up by 62%.

Other shareholders in the company include Blackrock, the world's biggest asset manager, ‎the private equity giant KKR and Sofina, a Belgian investor.

The Hut Group declined to comment on the board shake-up on Monday.

Watch: Euro zone factory growth slowed again in October, in latest sign of weakness - PMI (Reuters)

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