The owner of British luxury vertu phone maker Vertu signature touch has failed to rescue the company from bankruptcy after offering to pay creditors just 1.9 million ($2.4 million) of the firms 128 million debt. The result of this according to reports from The Financial Times and The Telegraph is that Vertu’s UK manufacturing operation will be shut down, leading to the loss of some 200 jobs.
Exiled businessman Murat Hakan Uzan bought the company in March after it had been sold and re-sold by a number of investment vehicles. Uzan, who was once a prominent businessman in his home country of Turkey, is currently living in Paris and will retain ownership of Vertu’s brand, technology, and design licenses. According to the FT, a person familiar with Uzan’s plans says he intends to resurrect the company in the future.
But even if the Vertu mobile brand can be rescued, it seems unlikely that the aspects that made the phone maker unique will return. The company’s UK operation was home to teams of skilled workers who assembled Vertu handsets using materials like ostrich leather, precious metals, and jewels. The resulting phones were technologically antiquated (they ran old version of Android using last year’s processors) but uniquely extravagant, with some handsets costing in excess of $30,000. Vertu also let customers talk to the individuals responsible for making their phone, and offered 24/7 concierge services as part of the handset’s price.
Vertu started life in 1998 and was originally part of Finnish phone giant Nokia. It was sold in 2012 to private equity company EQT, then in 2015 to Chinese company Godin Holdings. Hazan’s purchase of the firm in 2016 looks like it might be the last time the Vertu signature brand changes hands.