Last minutes for technology pin-up

In the five years that Martha Lane Fox has spent at the helm of lastminute.com she has earned a fortune, lost much of it and climbed out of the wreckage of the dot.com crash – and all before the age of 30.

At the peak of the dot.com boom in 2000, Ms Lane Fox was the pin-up of the technology age. Her blonde hair, wholesome good looks and tender age ensured that it was she, and not co-founder Brent Hoberman, who drew the media attention.

But once the bubble burst and loss-making lastminute.com’s shares plummeted from their peak of 560p to less than 40p, Ms Lane Fox found herself under pressure from press and investors alike.

She is now stepping down from the day-to-day running of the company as it announces its first full-year profit. Shares are still off their peak but trading at a much-improved 253p.

Ian Campbell, analyst at Lovelacemedia media consultancy said Ms Lane Fox and lastminute.com have confounded a sceptical market. “In a way she has defied her critics, and they were quite fierce. They had her down as someone who hadn’t proved herself in business, they said she was too young.

“But she stuck at it and lastminute has developed into a serious business and its share price has really strengthened. She and Brent Hoberman need to take a lot of credit for that.”

In 2000 Ms Lane Fox boasted a reported paper fortune of stg£40 million but after the company’s share price crashed that was cut to stg£9 million. It is now valued at around stg£23 million.

Mr Campbell said: “It is a paper fortune and she is not selling her shares. I doubt that money motivates her, if it did she would have cashed in her shares long ago.”

Ms Lane Fox has always hinted that her private life had been sacrificed on the altar of lastminute.com’s rise.

But Mr Campbell is sure, that whatever direction she takes, this is not the last the business world has heard of Ms Lane Fox.

He said: “It is unthinkable that she won’t come back in some senior position. The image of Martha Lane Fox sailing off into the sunset is pretty much inconceivable.”

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