THG founder Matt Moulding has paid tribute to his ‘anchor’ Iain McDonald after he announced he was stepping down as a non-executive director at the end of March.

In a typically candid post on LinkedIn, Moulding recalled their early fallouts, especially one memorable ‘humdinger’ soon after McDonald became an investor, but insisted the online retailer wouldn’t have been as successful without him.

In an official announcement to the London Stock Exchange, McDonald, who is the founder and chief investment officer of Belerion Capital, announced he will step down as a non-executive director at the end of the month, shortly after his 14th anniversary as a THG director.

McDonald, who is also chair of the UK Digital Business Association, has overseen THG’s growth and evolution into a global leader in three major categories – beauty, nutrition and technology.

Explaining his decision, McDonald said: “As the THG board evolves to a more conventional PLC structure, the time is right for me to step away from my current role.

“I intend to remain very close to THG and a committed long-term investor. I could not be more proud to have played even a small role in the incredible business which Matt and his team have built and to have been so welcomed as a member of the THG family.

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“Looking forward it is pleasing to step away at a time when the business itself couldn’t be in better shape. The scale of the capability in THG is something which few appreciate.”

Paying tribute CEO Moulding said: “There’s no doubt whatsoever that THG would not be in such a strong position as it is today had Iain not joined us 14 years ago.

“Under his guidance, THG has grown revenues and adjusted EBITDA 20-fold and 50-fold respectively, while migrating away from retailing CDs/DVDs and evolving into a global leader in beauty, nutrition and technology.”

Prior to establishing Belerion Capital in 2018, McDonald was chief investment officer of the William Currie Group.

Writing on LinkedIn this morning, Moulding paid a typically punchy tribute to the outgoing director.

“In this world of relentless chaos, I rely on a small group of ‘anchors’ to keep me and THG steady,” wrote Moulding. “Iain is one such anchor.

“I first met Iain back in early 2010 when I was searching for investors to back THG in moving away from CDs/DVDs and to enter the nutrition and beauty markets. We’d bootstrapped the business to this point, living hand to mouth, and needed cash to make it happen.

“Back in 2010, Iain was managing monies for a small London family office. He’d been incredibly successful seeing the potential in backing early-stage UK digital businesses.

“He built a big stake in back in 2005/6 when it only had revenues c£15m. Back then, iPhones didn’t exist the internet was only for geeks.

“And so, Iain quickly became the UK’s ‘go-to man’ for UK tech businesses raising money. If you could get Iain to invest others would follow.

“I had to convince Iain that I wasn’t a mad man, that we’d built serious tech, and we could leverage it to be successful in nutrition and beauty, even though we knew nothing about the sectors.

“After just three few weeks of meetings, site visits and diligence, Iain agreed to invest. Better still, he also brought onboard a major London fund manager.

“Just a few weeks later, he then added the legendary Sir Terry Leahy as an investor. These were pinch yourself moments that set us on a whole new journey.

“Like anything worth having, it’s not been a perfect journey together. We’ve had plenty of fallouts over the past four years. We joke about it now, but we had a real ‘humdinger’ within two years of Iain’s investment.

“THG was growing at an explosive rate. We were making acquisitions, building out our own tech while also opening new warehouses. Looking back, it was lively.

“We inevitably got some things wrong, creating six-12 months of difficult growing pains. This led to Iain and others understandably asking if I was the right person to be CEO.

“Naturally, I told everyone to ‘p*ss off’, refused the notion of a new CEO, and fought everyone every inch of the way while fixing the growing pains with the help of John Gallemore.

“Both Iain and I learnt so much during those times. For me, I learned the need to keep a tight grip on your company. If you don’t, there’s a risk that when things inevitably go wrong people will try to push you out.

“From that day onwards, I made sure THG would never be put at the mercy of short-term decision making…….only to then join the LSE in 2020.

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“But Iain’s THG journey doesn’t end here. I’m so grateful for the huge impact Iain has on THG. And so, thankfully, he’s agreed to dedicate more time than ever to us by becoming an advisor, working closely with our three businesses to deliver their strategies.”