Vertu liquidators set to repay staff and plug £500k pension gap

Liquidators of Vertu, the manufacturer of luxury mobiles, have recovered enough funds to pay the majority of employees’ preferential creditor claims – and replenish a large part of a £500,000 hole in their pensions.

Vertu’s jewel and gold-encrusted phones retailed at up to £145,000

Adam Harris and Kevin Goldfarb of the insolvency practice Griffins were last months appointed joint liquidators of Vertu, which sold luxury phones retailing at up to £145,000 each to the super-rich.

After a period in which Vertu’s sales plunged and debts spiraled, talks began for a pre-pack administration to save the business. After the negotiations broke down, Harris and Goldfarb were appointed on July 12.

Since their appointment the liquidators have been looking to maximise the value of Vertu’s assets to recover debts for creditors.

Among the creditors owed the biggest amounts were the 178 staff, who were left with £460,000 in unpaid wages at the time Vertu entered liquidation. Vertu also had a £519,000 deficit in its pension fund contributions and the company collapsed with total debts of around £40m.

The liquidators however raised more than £1.5m in cash during August by selling the company’s assets through an auction with Kent-based GJ Wisdom & Co.

Harris, a partner at Griffins, said: “The successful auction of the company’s assets raised in excess of £1.5m which not only ensures that a significant proportion of the former employees’ preferential claims can be satisfied but also reimburses the National Insurance Fund to the extent that it has covered these liabilities.”

The National Insurance Fund pays out to staff who claim for unpaid wages and other related liabilities when their employer enters insolvency and in the case of Vertu, is set to be reimbursed by the liquidators.

Now the liquidators will look into the conduct of the former owners and directors.

Harris added: “We shall now continue our investigation into the reasons behind the demise of the company.”

Since taking over the company’s affairs, the liquidators have discovered that staff pension contributions were deducted from salaries but not paid over to the pension providers since March this year.

Before liquidation, the company was under the control of Turkish tycoon Hakan Murat Uzan.

Uzan acquired the company from Hong Kong-based Godin Holdings, which had previously acquired Vertu in 2015, from the private equity group EQT.

Vertu’s range of high-end handsets was made with alligator skin, sapphire crystal screens and ruby touch keys. Prices for the mobiles ranged from £11,000 to its premium model; the Signature Clous de Paris Red Gold, which featured 18 karats red gold along with black sapphire keys, and a £39,100 price tag.

The most expensive Vertu phone was sold for around £300,000 to a Chinese buyer.

Vertu budget smartphone for back pocket billionaires

By now you know that Vertu is the go-to global brand for upscale cellular devices – however, with starting prices that nudge the £7k mark, the current line of handsets have been reserved for the kind of guys who would pay for one with their titanium Amex. That is, until now. With the launch of the phone maker’s new model, there’s now a sleeker and (slightly) more affordable iteration for aspiring one per centers.

Starting at £4,200, the Aster is significantly cheaper than its cousin, the recently launched Signature Touch. However it’s wrong to think of this as the Signature Touch “light”; the Aster has a very impressive tech spec of its own, including a 4.7 inch 1080p sapphire crystal display, 64GB of internal memory, a 13MP camera on the back (and a 2.1MP one on the front), and a quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor with 2GB of RAM to ensure the Android 4.4 KitKat OS goes without a glitch. All of these are exactly the same as on the Signature Touch. There’s also wallpaper included from the Tate gallery as well as ringtones composed by the London Symphony Orchestra and Dolby speakers to listen to them on. So far, so good.

The main difference is the design of the handset, which you’ll immediately clock is far more pared down than the Touch with it’s ballsy, almost Star Trek-esque ear panel (or “pillow” as the brand calls it). Perhaps it’s because it fits in with the current trend towards more understated items that we’re seeing in the luxury industry, or perhaps it’s because it sits more easily in your hand or slips slightly smoother into your pocket, but we like this new design a lot.

While this model might not be crafted from the kind of high-end mixed metals available for the Touch – such as gold or all-over PVD black titanium (one of the main factors, no doubt, at the reduced price) – the simpler polished titanium edges are an impressive alternative. This being Vertu, there’s also a whole host of exotic skins that your handset can be clad in from “entry level” calf leather (£4,200) to karting (£5,600) up to top-of-the-range ostrich in cognac (pictured, £5,900).

The only real downside? That trademark red ruby button on the right-hand titanium panel will only get you a six-month stint with the Vertu’s famous concierge team, as opposed to a year of expert recommendations from a dedicated “personal lifestyle manager” with the Touch.

However, if you’re looking to supplement your handset with other accessories, you’ll be pleased to hear that there is also a coordinating range of beautiful protective leather cases (from £280) to accompany your new purchase. Because let’s face it, you’re going to want to make sure this phone stays pristine for as long as possible.

Vertu posh smartphone is probably more powerful than yours

  • Moving on to cameras, the main image has been upgraded to a 21-megapixel resolution with f/2.2 aperture (though f/2.0 la Moto X Pure Edition would be better), a dual-tone LED flash, phase detection autofocus, and 4K video recording. The front-facing camera, on the other hand, is stuck with the same old 2.1-megapixel resolution, so hopefully, there’s at least some improvement in image quality. To our surprise, gone is the Hasselblad partnership, but Vertu has since recruited ArcSoft to focus on the camera’s software. We’ll just have to wait and see if the results are any good.

    The most noticeable design change is on the phone’s back plate, where you can twist the round latch to flip open the new “dramatic” gull-wing doors to access the Nano SIM slot and microSD slot. As before, under the right flap, you’ll find the laser-etched signature of the craftsman who was solely responsible for your handmade device back in Church Crookham, England. There’s also space in other parts of the back plate for personal engraving because if you’re paying so much for a smartphone, you might as well make it truly yours, right?

  • we haven’t forgotten the most important element of Vertu phones: services. With the new Signature Touch, Vertu’s “Dedicated Concierge” — a service that provides a single point of contact to act as your personal assistant — is now complimentary for 18 months instead of just 12. According to Pogliani, this feature has proven to be a big driver for customer loyalty and likeness to repurchase a Vertu replica handset, especially since he drastically improved the relevance, quality, frequency and number of privileges offered to his customers over the last two years. Other features such as encrypted communication by Silent Circle and global WiFi access by iPad are still included.

    “With a growing global appreciation and understanding of the term ‘luxury tech’, the opportunities ahead of us are many,” the exec added.

    The new Signature Touch will be available globally from mid-October, with prices ranging from 6,500 (about $9,900) all the way to 13,700 (about $20,900), depending on your combination of colors and materials:Jet Calf, Garnet Calf, Grape Lizard, Pure Jet Lizard, Jet Alligator, Pure Navy Alligator, Clous de Paris Alligator and Pure Jet Red Gold.

Vertu’s sudden CEO swap spells trouble after Chinese buyout

  • It’s only been three months since we met Vertu replica then freshly-appointed CEO Billy Crotty, an Irishman who was brought in by the company’s new Chinese owner, but for reasons unknown, it appears that he’s already left the luxury phone maker. That’s according to the LinkedIn page of Gordon Watson, who has since been promoted from VP of Sales and Marketing to CEO. Needless to say, it’s an unusually short stint for such an important role, though there were already signs of trouble beforehand with the recent departures of other key execs.

    A quick search on the web shows that since Crotty’s appointment back in October, Vertu had already lost its COO, VP Product & Marketing, Brand & Marketing Director and, most recently, the Regional Head of Sales in the Middle East — a key market for Vertu. Bizarrely, most of these positions have yet to be filled, the risk of which is probably akin to sailing a dinghy through a wild storm sans navigation.

  • We can’t help but worry that Vertu’s Chinese owner, Godin Holdings, has something to do with this seeming vacuum in its executive team. In our previous interview, Crotty vowed to keep Vertu’s manufacturing base in the UK, as it was apparently “one of the principal reasons why Godin invested in and acquired” this eccentric company. With him and the other key execs gone, we do wonder if this promise will no longer be kept? And does the new Vertu have what it takes to tackle the declining luxury market until it recovers later this year? That will be the big challenge for Watson.

Luxury vertu phone maker is shutting down its UK manufacturing

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.

vertu uk

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.

Luxury smartphone maker Vertu rumor is going to close

Vertu phone, the British firm that manufactures luxury vertu smartphone costing up to $52,000, is closing down. The news comes just four months after the company was purchased by businessman Murat Hakan Uzan, who was unable to save it from bankruptcy.

Vertu has been struggling for some time as the world’s wealthiest ditch luxury handsets coated in diamonds, gold, and alligator skin in favor of the iPhone. It has been sold and re-sold by a number of investment firms in recent years before ending up in the hands of Uzan, an exiled Turkish entrepreneur, back in March.

Uzan offered 1.9 million (approx. $2.4 million) to settle Vertu’s 128 million debt and rescue it from bankruptcy, but that wasn’t enough to appease the company’s creditors. As a result, Vertu’s manufacturing arm is closing down, but Uzan will retain its brand, technology, and design licenses.

Uzan invested $40 million in Chinese manufacturer TCL Communication just last month. The deal would have allowed Vertu to use TCL technologies in future smartphones. According to a report from The Financial Times, sources familiar with Uzan’s plans say he intends to resurrect the company and deliver more Vertu handsets in the future.

Sadly, this means the Vertu staff based at its manufacturing facility in Hampshire are now out of a job. The company has also suspended its concierge service, which gave Vertu handset owners 24-hour support but it promises that it’s coming back later this year.

We have taken the difficult decision to suspend our current Vertu services and focus on developing a completely new, next generation suite of services, exclusively for our customers, reads a notice on its website. We plan to launch these new services from September 2017 and update this page closer to the launch with further information. vertu signature touch is the latest model of vertu mobile.