Richemont, which already owns 29 per cent of the clothing boutique, is reported to be in advanced discussions to acquire the remaining 71 per cent in a deal which would value Net-a-Porter at up to £350m.
A transaction would bring a windfall of as much as £50m for the company’s founder, former fashion journalist Natalie Massenet. She set up the London-based web operation 10 years ago and owns 18.2 per cent.
The buyout would give Geneva-based group Richemont the opportunity to sell its brands, which include Cartier and Alfred Dunhill, through the website. Net-a-Porter attracts around 2m women users per month.
One of the fastest-growing privately owned companies in Britain, Net-a-Porter racked up a 234 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to £10.1m in the year to 31 January 2009.
Beating the credit crunch and the recession, the firm recorded a 47.8 per cent increase in sales to £81.5m.
Net-a-Porter employs around 800 people in New York and the UK, featuring goods from the likes of Jimmy Choo, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and Givenchy.
Speaking in an interview a year ago, Massenet told a newspaper she was always bullish on her start-up’s growth prospects despite early doubts from City investors.
She said: “There were a lot of unimaginative private equity people who said that women would never shop online... [But] I was completely confident. I never thought it wouldn’t work. I never once thought it wouldn’t be huge.”
Net-a-Porter and Richemont declined to comment last night.