Former It girl set to make £90m from sale of her Jimmy Choos

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The Independent Online

In the days before her shoes became a required fashion accessory for A-list celebrities from Sarah Jessica Parker to Julia Roberts and Beyoncé Knowles, Tamara Mellon observed that "at the end of the day, the person who has the money has the control".

Judging by the latest reported developments at Jimmy Choo, the glamorous shoe business Ms Mellon founded in 1996, she is about to enjoy considerably more of both. Ms Mellon, a one-time It girl and Vogue accessories editor, stands to make a £90m fortune from the sale of her business, having appointed the investment bank NM Rothschild to evaluate a number of approaches which have come within the past month. One party is understood to have offered as much as £180m for the business.

The market value of the business demonstrates just how far the Choo name has come since Ms Mellon knew the eponymous Jimmy as a cobbler in London's East End to whom she would go when she was struggling to find suitable shoes for her Vogue shoots. ("I'm doing a Grecian story. Can you make me a sandal like this?" she would ask him.)

The cobbler is now out of the big money. He sold out in 2001 and was placed under licence from Jimmy Choo Ltd to make couture shoes, while Ms Mellon, whose work for her brand remains tireless, continued to build it into one of this country's most successful fashion labels.

Her first financial payback came two years ago when Lion Capital bought a 51 per cent stake valuing the business at £101m. A second would complete an extraordinary 20-year journey, which began with Ms Mellon buying the firm with a £150,000 loan from her father, Tommy Yeardye, who co-founded the Vidal Sassoon hair products empire.

If the deal does not progress, the American-raised Ms Mellon will not be bereft of cash. Her wedding to Matthew Mellon II, from the wealthy American banking family, was at Blenheim Palace and she and her husband were firmly entrenched in what one interviewer memorably described as the "jet-setty, Ferrari driving, yacht-chartering world of Tam'n'Matt," before splitting, a few years back. The course of true love did not run entirely smoothly for Ms Mellon, who was revealed to be having an affair with Oscar Humphries, the 22-year-old son of Barry Humphries.

But her company has proceeded to sell most women's fantasy footwear from stores in London, Beverly Hills and Las Vegas. The shoes can sell for up to £1,200 a pair - highlights of the range include water-snake knee-high boots with a jewelled Swarovski buckle - though much of Ms Mellon's time has been devoted to the accessories.

The brand has diversified into sunglasses, perfume and jewellery and its bags retail at an average £700. "How a woman gets her status is from her accessories," Ms Mellon said recently. "You can go to dinner in jeans, if you have a great pair of shoes and a great Swarovski- encrusted bag."

Ms Mellon, who admits that her liking for high heels is born of the fact that "taller makes me feel more empowered", would have us believe that she has been struggling to assert herself all along. She says that a desire to prove she could succeed on her own persuaded her to buy Jimmy Choo's business. Such insecurities now seem to belong in the past.

Her removal from the business is also unlikely to slow its exponential growth. There are plans to expand the current 39 Jimmy Choo stores (including Sloane Street in London, Moscow, Milan and Hong Kong) to 50 worldwide by 2008.