THG founder and CEO Matt Moulding doesn’t really like the media.

I contacted him in February requesting an interview and he politely rebuffed me.

“I’ve lost all faith in UK press in recent years,” was the gist of his reply.

THG has had a media kicking since its much-publicised IPO in 2020.

Some of the criticism has been fair. THG was valued at £5.4 billion when it floated on the London Stock Exchange four years ago while today its market cap stands at a little under £900 million.

Investors didn’t like the fact that the founder operated as both CEO and executive chair or that he had a ‘golden share’ – something which he remedied by giving it up in June 2023.

However a lot of the media attention has been unfair and personal, which is why he routinely turns down requests for media interviews.

“I avoid interviews like I avoid a dance floor,” he explained in his latest punchy blog on LinkedIn. “It’s weird as years ago I’d have thrown myself fully into both at a moment’s notice.

“People often tell me I’m frank and direct, lacking any real filter. On the plus side, at least this saves all the nonsense of reading between the lines.

“But I’ve also learned this isn’t a great trait for interviews. And so, I now rarely ever speak to any media for risk of being sensationalised, taken out of context or downright manipulated.”

Moulding took to LinkedIn to explain his surprise decision to give an interview to The Times.

“After a big debate with those close to me, we agreed to do an interview with The Times for a lifestyle piece in the weekend magazine,” he said.

“I know it sounds bizarre given the appalling treatment we’ve always received from The Times, but I was assured this was a different team, in no way connected to the ‘business’ folk, and so it would be fair and balanced.

“This is the first time a journalist has been to THG’s Manchester tech campus since we opened it three years ago.

It's a dog's life: Matt Moulding, founder and CEO of THG

It’s a dog’s life: Matt Moulding, founder and CEO of THG

“Over a two-and-a-half hour chat, I answered a barrage of questions in the straightforward manner I’d approach any conversation.”

However anyone worried that the straight-talking Moulding would give an anodyne interview needn’t have worried.

Instead he took the opportunity to reignite the row with activist investor Kelso Group Holdings – although it’s debatable the flames of their deep-seated antipathy towards each other ever went out!

At this point it’s worth explaining that Kelso, which is made up of almost two dozen high net-worth figures and is led by former Zeus Capital CEO John Goold, has been heavily critical of THG’s leadership.

THG operates three distinct businesses in THG Beauty, THG Nutrition and THG Ingenuity and Kelso wants the business broken up.

Moulding’s response has been to buy a significant shareholding in Kelso – but it’s his choice of just 10 words in response to the journalist’s question about calls from activist investors to sell off the nutrition arm of the business that has lit the touch paper.

“My dogs have got more shares and you’ve met them,” he said.

After ebullient debut, what lessons can Raspberry Pi take from ‘worst IPO in history’?

The response from Kelso was immediate and predictable, urging shareholders to read the article which they helpfully attached to the post.

After highlighting the 10 words in question the statement read: “Assuming Kelso is the activist being referred to, we have always stated THG should look to demerge the three businesses and sell off majority or minority portions of each ideally to strategic investors.

“The board of Kelso has concluded change is needed at THG and will be voting against the chairman (Charles Allen) at the upcoming THG AGM on 24th June 2024.”

So how did Moulding respond to the dialling up of the rhetoric ahead of the important vote?  A dose of mea culpa perhaps to take the heat out of the situation?

Of course not. He posted several photos of him with his  dogs on LinkedIn with the message ‘my dogs have apparently caught the media interest – hence the pics 😁’.

Moulding is the same age as me (52) and if the episode proves nothing else, it’s that there’s life in the old dog yet!

How are Manchester’s on-fire tech firms ‘engineering for growth’?