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Fri 3 Apr 2020 12:56 PM

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Abraaj-backed The Modist shuts down after financial struggles

Arif Naqvi was a personal investor in the company founded by his former personal assistant

Abraaj-backed The Modist shuts down after financial struggles

Once backed by the Middle East’s largest private equity company, luxury e-commerce platform The Modist has now permanently seized operations following financial struggles.

The Dubai company was founded in 2017 by Ghizlan Guenez, who worked as a director at the collapsed Abraaj Group, and as an assistant to its founder Arif Naqvi - who was a personal investor in The Modist - for nearly 10 years.

Sources familiar with the matter told Arabian Business The Modist had been struggling financially for six months, having laid off a number of staff, while its former COO Lisa Bridgett left in March last year. 

The company was slated to complete its Series B funding round in the same month, with investments from e-commerce giant Farfetch, Bulgari Group Vice Chairman Nicola Bulgari, leading retail player Chalhoub Group and investment fund Vaultier7.

But sources that spoke on condition of anonymity said the investments had fallen through.

An Instagram post on the platform’s account reads: "It is with a heavy heart we share with you that The Modist is permanently closing its virtual doors today…

"Here at The Modist we have witnessed the powers of our own community coming together from all over the globe to support each other and are hopeful that this time will make us all stronger and more united,” the post says, seemingly hinting at Covid-19 hardships. E-commerce companies have seen an uptick in business as consumers move to online shopping in light of self isolation measures, though some reports believe the increase will be temporary.

The Abraaj Group, which was founded in 2002 and at one point managed $14bn in assets, collapsed in 2018 after its senior executives, including Naqvi, were arrested on charges of defrauding US investors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Naqvi had claimed he was entitled to drawdown funds from Abraaj for his sons and The Modist, although he said no payments were made directly to Guenez, The Wall Street Journal reported in 2018.

Arabian Business has contacted The Modist for a comment.

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