JOHN ILHAN was once the richest man in the country under 40. Little more than five years after his death, the mobile phone empire he built is gone, saddening his widow.
Patricia Ilhan said she was "very disappointed" that Vodafone has decided to shut down the Crazy John's chain of mobile phone stores that her husband founded.
Ms Ilhan, who sold her share of the Crazy John's brand to Vodafone for an estimated $150 million in 2008, said through a family spokesman on Wednesday that she was "very disappointed with the decision but it was a matter for Vodafone".
Up to 300 jobs are reportedly at risk after Vodafone said it planned to close down the chain on February 20.
It is thought about 40 of the 60 stores could close. The remaining stores would be rebranded into Vodafone stores, the company said.
Mr Ilhan, the son of Turkish migrants, grew up in Broadmeadows. He started his career as a salesman at Strathfield Car Radios before opening his first mobile phone store in Melbourne in 1991.
He made Crazy John's into one of Australia's largest independent phone retailers. Never shy of publicity, he was a regular in the business pages and on lists of Australia's most wealthy people, and offered advice and insights for people hoping to emulate his success. In October 2007, he collapsed while walking near his home in Brighton and died.
Vodafone said the "tough decisions" were taken as part of a move to streamline retail into one brand. Crazy John's customers would continue to be supported through Vodafone stores and its dealerships and they would be transferred to the Vodafone network.
Last year, Hutchison Telecommunications Australia, which owns 50 per cent of Vodafone Hutchison Australia in a joint venture with Britain's Vodafone Plc, reported a net loss of $131.3 million in the first half of 2012.