Matt Moulding: the UK’s buff billionaire How did the working-class boy from Burnley build an eCommerce giant, and rub shoulders with Bill Gates and Barack Obama? Damian Whitworth reports
On the way to becoming a billionaire, Matt Moulding lost his shirt. Not in the financial sense, you understand. His rise, from flogger of cheap CDs to e-commerce giant, has been relentless. But the Manchester-based entrepreneur, who has a phenomenal memory for numbers when it comes to his own — and other people’s — businesses, also has a fierce addiction to the gym and is proud enough of the results that he likes to go topless at parties and on yachts and post the pictures on his Instagram account.
When his company, the Hut Group, went public in September last year the 49-year-old received an £830 million share bonus and joined the billionaire club. He and his wife, Jodie, are worth £2.14 billion and are 78th on the new Sunday Times Rich List, up from 149th last year, when they were worth £960 million. Moulding is among a group of online retailers, including the owners of Ocado, Boohoo and Asos, who have seen their fortunes shoot up during the pandemic. He may be an entrepreneur most people haven’t heard of, running a company with modest name recognition, but he has come from humble beginnings in the Lancashire town of Burnley to rub shoulders with Barack Obama, receive advice on philanthropy from Bill Gates and have Boris Johnson pop by for a tour of his vast warehouse facilities.
THG began in 2004, taking advantage of a VAT loophole to post CDs to customers from Guernsey, on behalf of Tesco, Asda and the like. The company then moved into health and beauty, buying and developing brands such as Lookfantastic, an online cosmetics retailer, and MyProtein, a nutrient supplement business. THG is now where Moulding wants it to be: a tech company that has built software to run dozens of its own retail websites, including their payment and distribution logistics. That tech platform is also being used by much bigger brands, such as Coca-Cola and Nestlé, to sell directly to customers, in a similar way to Ocado’s licensing of its software, technology and expertise to other retailers. THG has a studio division where it creates digital content to promote its brands and an arm that works to market products through influencers on social media.