Bankrupt Apple supplier wants to close sapphire plant after less than 1 year

By

This year will be the iPhone's biggest camera upgrade ever.
Sapphire is used to protect the iPhone's rear-facing iSight camera. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

GT Advanced Technologies is apparently getting out of the sapphire production game, after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection at the start of this week.

As reported by Re/code and the Wall Street Journal, the beleaguered company is asking the court’s permission to “wind down” operations at its sapphire manufacturing plant in Arizona — and, yes, for those keep track, that does come less than one year after the company first announced its game-changing deal with Apple.

Roughly 700 people are employed at the factory, which is where GT Advanced was rumored to be working on sapphire displays for Apple products include the Apple Watch and iPhone 6 devices.

Apple has said its committed to preserving jobs, and will work closely with state and local officials as it considers its next move.

Following pleas from GT Advanced and a closed session with both Apple and GT, a U.S. bankruptcy judge allowed yesterday’s filing to be kept secret — meaning that we don’t yet exactly what went wrong between the two companies, although it likely hinged on GT’s inability to produce sapphire displays to Apple’s satisfaction, either in quality or quantity.

The Mesa, Arizona factory was bought and outfitted by Apple, but run by GT Advanced. If it closes shop it will have operated for less than one year.

The company’s CEO unloaded many of his shares ahead of the iPhone 6 event, at which it was revealed the next-gen handsets wouldn’t feature sapphire displays. Shares in GT Advanced crashed shortly after.

The next bankruptcy hearing is set for Wednesday, October 15.