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Apr 15, 2015 10:24 AM

China's Ninebot buys Dean Kaman's NH-based Segway

The Associated Press

HONG KONG (AP) - Segway, the iconic but struggling N.H. maker of self-balancing personal electric scooters, has been bought by a Chinese rival.

Beijing-based Ninebot Inc., which makes a range of short-distance motorized transport devices, said Wednesday that it bought Segway Inc. for an undisclosed amount. It said it received $80 million from a group of investors to finance the purchase.

Ninebot's purchase of Bedford-based Segway is the latest example of a Chinese company acquiring foreign brands or technology. It's also the latest chapter for Segway, which has passed through several owners and generally failed to live up to the great hype surrounding its launch in 2002.

Segway founder Dean Kamen famously promised that his invention would revolutionize transportation, claiming it "will be to the car what the car was to the horse and buggy." But sales of the two-wheeler failed to take off and it earned a goofy reputation thanks to some high-profile mishaps, including President George W. Bush toppling over on one in 2003.

The acquisition comes five months after the U.S. International Trade Commission agreed to investigate Segway's claim that Ninebot and other Chinese companies were infringing on its patents and copyrights.

Segway wanted to block imports of competing scooters into the United States but the deal appears to signal a resolution.

In a statement issued by Ninebot, Segway President Rod Keller said the "strategic alliance with Ninebot will enable us to provide more intelligent and valuable products for our customers."

Ninebot, which was founded in 2012, said it received the $80 million investment from a group including U.S. venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, the Shunwei Foundation and Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi.

Segway was sold in 2009 to British millionaire entrepreneur James Heselden, who died a year later when he accidentally rode one off a cliff. The company was bought by Summit Strategic Investments LCC in 2013.


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