Secretive Brit millionaire buys Segway Inc

Project Ginger goes to Leeds

GM Segway Puma

A British millionaire inventor has bought Segway Inc - the maker of electric pogo sticks that promised to change the world when it launched back in 2001.

The deal apparently went through on Christmas Eve, but news only emerged today thanks to a blog post on Segway.com. The post said the firm had been bought by Jimi Heselden, chairman of Hesco Bastion, and that Segway has also received additional funding.

The firm's British distributor, which Heselden also invested in, struggled to make sales and would not release figures for numbers sold. Despite a hard hitting PR campaign that even tricked Reg reporters into boarding the two-wheeled Sinclair C5s the devices never won over press or public. Lembit Optik's campaign to legalise getting your leg over a Segway on the public highways didn't help.

Heselden is a reclusive millionaire and philanthropist - although he found himself in the papers in 2008 after paying £1.5m for nine people to fly with the Red Arrows.

He made his millions from his invention of a super-sized sandbag. The big boxes made of fabric and chicken wire can be filled with rubble or soil to provide quick barriers for soldiers, walls for relief buildings or sea defences. They were also used to reinforce parts of the levees in New Orleans just before Hurricane Katrina.

Hesco made sales of £111m last year, a 43 per cent fall, but the privately held firm still made a profit of £27.1m, according to The Yorkshire Post

Project Ginger, as it was codenamed, swept the web with more hype than an Apple tablet back in 2001. With no more information that apparent investment from Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos the web went wild for Dean Kamen's invention. It was going to change the shape of cities and be more important than the PC - that was according to Steve Jobs.

In reality the machines have hardly made an impact. A few fat US patrol officers can now scoot round the mall without using any calories and street tours in San Francisco and other cities. One Reg hack thought he saw a pair of two wheel ploddies patrolling Dublin airport last year, but he was very very hungover at the time. ®

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