Lane Fox cashes in £4.6m slice of her lastminute stake

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The Independent Online

Martha Lane Fox, the co-founder of lastminute.com, yesterday cashed in shares worth £4.6m in the online travel company which she floated with Brent Hoberman, her business partner, in 2000.

Ms Lane Fox, who more than anyone else became synonymous with the dot.com boom, said she had no immediate plans for spending the cash. Even after yesterday's disposal of 2 million shares at 230p each she still retains a substantial stake in the company.

"I guess I'm selling now because it seems like the right time. I have still got 8 million shares in the company and I still have an enormous amount of faith in it," she said.

In November Ms Lane Fox announced she was giving up her job as lastminute.com's managing director on the day it announced its first pre-tax profit. At the time she said she had always had it mind to spend only a finite time at the company. Her decision to give up her executive role - she remains on the board as a non-executive - has led to much speculation as to her next move.

The entrepreneur said yesterday she was close to agreeing a new career move, having made it clear that her next job would not involve a start-up business and would also avoid the dot.com world.

However, she admitted retail "might be" her next move. She has already been linked to an executive role within the Weston family empire that owns Selfridges. "I'll tell you when I announce it," she said.

Yesterday's share sale leaves Ms Lane Fox holding 8.2 million shares, equal to 2.7 per cent of lastminute.com, which gives her a holding worth £19m.

"I've moved from executive to non-executive [at lastminute.com] and before today I haven't sold a single share since the IPO so I hope people will take it in the way it's meant." The company's shares fell 1.4 per cent on the news of the sale.

After making its maiden pre-tax profit in November of £200,000, a figure which disappointed many analysts and sent the company's shares down 17 per cent on the day, it has made a number of acquisitions to rapidly expand its operations.

Last week the company announced plans to acquire Online Travel Corporation for £54.9m.

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