JUST over a decade ago, Nick Jenkins was working as a trader in the Moscow office of commodities giant Glencore.
His departure, both from the firm and the country, was hastened when he found a death threat pinned to his front door, the work of a rogue supplier he had helped send to jail for stealing £10m worth of sugar.
It was a helpful reminder that it was probably time for a change of scenery.
He returned to the UK in 1998 and began working on a plan for a new business.
Yesterday, Jenkins was sitting on a paper fortune of up to £40m after selling the personalised greetings card business he launched in 2000.
Moonpig.com – known for its catchy jingle and logo featuring a pig in a helmet – was sold for £120m to private equity-owned photo business Photobox, with Jenkins parting with some of his 35 per cent stake.
The 44-year-old says he came up with the idea while sending a greeting card of his own, which he resorted to Tipp-Ex in a bid to customise it. He spotted a gap in the market for personalised cards, which coincided with the ascendancy of digital publishing.
He ploughed in £750,000 of his own money, saved from his trading days. He also secured enough funding to lease office space and sign contracts with printers. His service eventually allowed users to send in photos of their loved ones as well as customise themes and text.
Despite launching just in time for the dot.com crash, Moonpig survived, breaking even after five years.
After 11 years with Jenkins at the helm, Moonpig was turning over more than £40m a year and was the most recognisable name in the sector.
Key to its success was marketing; like it or not, the Moonpig brand is memorable. But it wasn’t the result of a brainstorming session with highly-paid marketing executives – Moonpig was the rather derisory nickname Jenkins earned while at school.
Regardless of its provenance, Moonpig was a hit. Last year 2.7m customers bought cards from the site at least three times, amounting to unit sales in excess of 12m.
It is understood Jenkins will reinvest some of his fortune into the newly formed company and remain as an adviser. However, he is not setting out to recreate his success in the same industry. Instead the entrepreneur says he is keen to take some time out and concentrate on his charity work.
MEET THE ADVISERS
Advising Photobox on its merger with Moonpig is RBS. Heading up the team is Nick Evans, director in the bank’s financial sponsors division.
Evans has been at RBS for nearly five years, joining the mid-market leveraged finance team in September 2006, where he specialised in providing debt for UK private equity backed transactions. Before joining RBS he spent a year in Australia, where he worked as an intermediate analyst for PKF Chartered Accountants & Business Advisers. He was educated at the University of Bath.
Also on the advisory team for RBS was Ben Williams from the bank’s consumer industries division, Phil Brown from business development and Dan Kirtley from structured finance transactions.
RBS yesterday described the deal as “groundbreaking”, saying it highlights “the potential of the online market and the strength of both Photobox and Moonpig”.