In a turn of events that likely shocks no one, British luxury cellphone manufacturer Vertu is shutting down operations.
The last few years have not been kind to Vertu, which made a name for itself by offering cellphones built from fine materials (leather, titanium, gemstones, etc.) and giving its customers access to an exclusive 24-hour concierge service that could arrange anything from dry cleaning pickup to VIP access to restaurants and venues.
Struggling cellphone giant Nokia, which launched the brand in 1998, sold Vertu to a private equity firm in 2012. This change allowed the company to finally move its phones to the more modern Android operating system and embrace touchscreen technology. However, Vertu wasn’t able to find its footing in such a rapidly changing market (its phones were often little more than last-generation tech wrapped up in a pretty package), and in 2015 it was sold to a Hong Kong–based investment firm.
That arrangement lasted for just 18 months before the company was sold yet again, this time to controversial exiled Turkish businessman Hakan Uzan. He paid just $65 million—quite a bargain from the $230 million Nokia sold the company for five years earlier. After a failed attempt to renegotiate Vertu’s debt earlier this week, the company finally ceased operations. Vertu’s demise is not surprising; the company was often derided for emphasizing flash over substance. And while this approach may have been viable in the pre-smartphone days, when cellphone technology moved at a slower pace, it became a severe hindrance in an age where giants like Samsung and Apple began turning out new, feature-rich models on a yearly basis.
That said, Vertu unabashedly embodied a particular approach to luxury. Like many high-end mechanical watches, its phones were primarily status symbols and functional devices second. For those in the know, having one of Vertu’s phones—which were mostly priced above $10,000—indicated a certain level success (and disposable income). Even we were not immune to its charms: It made multiple appearances on our annual Best of the Best list, including in 2012 and 2013 for the Constellation and Ti, respectively.
Though the pioneer of luxury cellphones may be gone, its legacy persists. Companies like Porsche Design and Tonino Lamborghini have gotten on the luxury cellphone bandwagon, and professional-grade camera maker Red is set to debut its own smartphone later this year. Vertu was a British manufacturer and retailer of luxury handmade mobile phones, established by Finnish mobile-phone manufacturer Nokia in 1998. In October 2012 Nokia sold Vertu to private equity group EQT VI for an unspecified amount, but retained a 10% share. By the end of 2013, the company had around 350,000 customers, and phones were on sale in 500 retail outlets, including 70 run by the company. In 2015, it was announced that EQT had sold its share of Vertu to Godin Holdings, a Hong Kong-based holding company. In 2017 the company collapsed after plans to save it failed and went out of business in early July 2017, leaving its residual staff of 200 unemployed Vertu “Vertu Phone” Android Apple Nokia “Nokia Phone” Business Wealth Wealthy Money Rich 2017 Bankrupt “Out Of Business” Shutdown economy shopping “New Phone” Material Diamond “carbon fiber” impact “shock proof” smartphone tech technology ferrari bentley “vertu Ti” “vertu constellation” collection “limited edition” “special edition” closed “super rich” luxury “gold plated” gold platinum titanium entertainment london
According to The Economist the concept was to market phones explicitly as fashion accessories, with the idea “if you can spend $20,000 on a watch, why not on a mobile phone?”. Vertu phones, or “‘mobile communications instruments” are made in its factories in Church Crookham, Hampshire, England. Handsets are sold through an emphasis on craftsmanship, style and service, rather than mobile phone functions. The business is based in the United Kingdom with offices in New York City, Dubai, Moscow, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Paris and Singapore. In November Massimiliano Pogliani was replaced by Billy Crotty as Vertu’s CEO, who in turn was replaced by Gordon Watson three months later.
Vertu has also made limited edition handsets in collaboration with Ferrari and Bentley. Goldvish Gresso The Vertu Ti is an Android mobile phone made by Vertu in England. It features a titanium case with a sapphire screen making it more robust than most smartphones. The phone is expected to retail at £6700 (€7900, $10500).
It shares similar hardware and the same battery pack as Nokia’s Lumia 920, and is also manufactured by Nokia, which formerly owned Vertu.