Michelle Mone’s former lingerie brand Ultimo to cease UK trading

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It was a brand that attracted a degree of showbiz glamour previously unknown in the often staid world of Scottish business.

Ultimo was the lingerie firm co-founded by future Tory peer Michelle Mone and reportedly worn by Hollywood royalty.

But an era of racy promotional campaigns and endless tabloid column inches came to an end on Monday with the announcment the East Kilbride-based company is to cease trading in the UK, putting 11 jobs at risk.

Staff have been informed of the decision and a formal redundancy consultation period is now underway, with the company blaming “increasing competition” in an already crowded market.

READ MORE: Michelle Mone steps down from board of Ultimo

The East Kilbride-based firm was founded as MJM International in 1996 by Baroness Mone and her then husband Michael Mone, with the Ultimo brand launching three years later.

Tory peer Michelle Mone left the Ultimo brand she co-founded in 2015. Picture: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

Tory peer Michelle Mone left the Ultimo brand she co-founded in 2015. Picture: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

Sri Lankan-based MAS Holdings acquired a majority shareholding in Ultimo parent firm, Ultimo Brands International Ltd, in 2014.

Lady Mone resigned her directorship of Ultimo Brands International Ltd in 2015 and left the management of the business.

In a tweet, she said: “It’s very sad to see that Ultimo, the brand I created 21 years ago, is closing down. I turned Ultimo in to a global success story and I am immensely proud of what we achieved.”

A spokesman for the company said: “The last few years have been extremely challenging for Ultimo, driven by increasing competition in the market and more cautious consumer spending due to the uncertainty surrounding the UK economy over the last 18 months.

Michelle Mone promotes her Ultimo brand in Glasgow in 2003. Picture: Donald Macleod

Michelle Mone promotes her Ultimo brand in Glasgow in 2003. Picture: Donald Macleod

“Having reviewed the business’ performance over the last three years as well as future prospects and considering the retail environment within which the business is operating; the Board has, with regret, decided to cease operations of the Ultimo business in the UK.”

Ultimo first achieved international attention after actress Julia Roberts reportedly wore an Ultimo bra in the hit 2000 film Erin Brockovich.

It went on to attract widespread media coverage thanks to bold promotional campaigns involving celebrities such as Kelly Brook.

In 2004, rock legend Rod Stewart branded Lady Mone ‘a nasty piece of work’ after she replaced his partner Penny Lancaster as the face of Ultimo with Stewart’s ex-wife Rachel Hunter.

Born in a east end of Glasgow tenement, the Ultimo founder spoke regularly in the press about building up her career from scratch.

But a bitter divorce between Michelle and Michael drew less welcome headlines, with the latter being bought out of the business in 2011.

Mone was elevated to the peerage in 2015 by then prime minister David Cameron with the brief of encouraging more young entrepreneurs from deprived backgrounds to develop businesses.

The appointment proved controversial, with critics claiming Ms Mone’s relatively early peerage was the result of her slick public relations rather than the long-term success of her businesses.

Ms Mone was also a high-profile supporter of the Better Together campaign during the run-up to the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.

READ MORE: Michelle Mone’s ‘£1m fake tan’ brand worth less than £25k