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Lastorders.com downs pint and leaves pub

Has the word liquidation ever been more appropriate?

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Despite winning the "Door2Door" award at Visa's fantastic e-tail awards on Wednesday, Lastorders.com* - the online delivery booze shop - has gone titsup.com, or perhaps more appropriately, this time, into "liquidation".

We never reckoned that Lastorders had a chance simply because the cost of transporting heavy goods of small intrinsic value meant either charging far more than the off-licence or very, very fine margins. Despite this though, the company managed to get a reported £2.5 million in funding in July last year from the Royal Bank of Scotland, Aberdeen Asset Management and some private investors.

Then, in August, NTL signed it up to supply the booze for its new digital TV service. Things were looking good. But just six months later, the dream is over and KPMG is picking at the carcass. What happened? And why, when head man James Oliver arrived at the Visa awards to collect the award, was the fact that the business had just sunk not mentioned?

More importantly, why does James sound so determined and optimistic when we catch him on his mobile walking down some London street on his way to a meeting? It has something to do with the company's demise, we find out. When the Royal Bank of Scotland and two others put in £2.5 million - which was actually £2 million and only £1.25 million turned up, says James - it got a seat on the board.

The company had 14 shareholders in total. And 11 of them are going with James to pastures new, so he claims. Guess which three aren't going? The RBS decided that the company wasn't going the right way and wanted to make drastic changes - the perilous state of the dotcom market may have had something to do with it. No one else agreed. The RBS had all the money. And into liquidation we go.

James mooted the idea of buying the Lastorders name, but doesn't hold out much hope. He fails to give a straight answer to whether he retains any of the technology, so we presume everything was piled under the one name. However "the value of the company is the people that run it" says James. And they are all launching again with some off-the-shelf ASP package that will be a "multi-media brand-enabler".

Christ only knows what that means in reality, but it appears to be based on the lessons learned by the Lastorders crew on how to deliver goods nationwide quickly and efficiently. We wish them all the best. ®

* - For our American readers, "Last orders" is what barmen call over this side of the Atlantic at 10 minutes to 11 (or 20 past 10 on Sundays). You then get a coupla pints before they stop serving and have twenty minutes to sink them before they start telling you to get out. Phrases for this period of time include "Drink up now, gentlemen", "Haven't you got homes to go to?", "Can't you drink that up now please" (the surly young barmaid approach) or " " - which is a huge, dumb bouncer simply standing too close to you.

A Scottish reader has contacted us to complain about the "this side of the Atlantic" comment. And quite rightly too, as we can happily vouch for Scotland's far superior licensing laws. Apologies and some jealousy to our friends north of the border.

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