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Farfetch China Deal With Alibaba, Richemont Nears Completion

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LONDON — Farfetch’s partnership with Alibaba and Richemont took a step toward completion this week, with the online fashion platform issuing a total of $600 million, or $300 million each, of 0 percent convertible senior notes, due in 2030.

It has also issued to the Pinault-owned Artemis Capital Management 1,889,338 of Farfetch Class A ordinary shares for total gross proceeds of approximately $50 million. The deal remains subject to customary closing.

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Alibaba has also nominated its president, J. Michael Evans, to the Farfetch board, effective immediately.

Evans has been the president of Alibaba Group since August 2015 and is a member of its board. He was previously vice chairman of the Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., until his retirement in December 2013. He served as chairman of Asia operations at Goldman Sachs from 2004 to 2013, and was the global head of growth markets at Goldman Sachs from January 2011 to December 2013.

Evans is a board member of City Harvest, a trustee of the Asia Society, and a member of the Advisory Council for the Bendheim Center for Finance at Princeton University. In August 2014, he joined the board of Barrick Gold Corp. Evans received his bachelor’s degree in politics from Princeton University in 1981.

As reported last month, the new global strategic partnership will see Richemont and its Chinese ally Alibaba pour hundreds of millions of dollars into Farfetch Ltd., and into a new joint venture called Farfetch China.

The partners said the ultimate aim of their alliance is to provide luxury brands with “enhanced access” to the China market, and to fuse physical and digital retail at a time when more people are shopping online, but still hungering for in-store experiences.

As part of the deal, Farfetch will also launch on Alibaba’s luxury platforms in China. The model is similar to what Net-a-porter and Mr Porter, both of which are owned by Richemont, have done as part of a separate JV with Alibaba inked in 2018.

As part of the alliance unveiled on Nov. 5, a steering group to include Rupert and Kering chairman and chief executive officer François-Henri Pinault will be created.

The alliance was the realization of a long-held dream of Richemont’s founder and chairman Johann Rupert.

“We’re not big enough, or tech-savvy enough, to do this on our own. All of the luxury goods industry combined would have difficulty in fighting giants like Amazon, which is why I asked everybody, in 2015, to invest in Yoox Net-a-porter,” Rupert said on a call in November to discuss Richemont’s first-half results for fiscal 2020-21.

“I was really looking at a business model, like Spotify, where the content owners have shares in a platform that is run autonomously. Then you, as a content owner, have access to all of the technology and systems to serve your clients. That is our view.”