Monday, 13 March 2017

Luxury phone maker Vertu bought by exiled Turkish businessman

The ownership of Vertu, is once again changing hands. The British based luxury smartphone maker has been bought by Baferton Ltd, an investment vehicle funded by exiled Turkish millionaire Hakan Uzan for £50 million ($60 million) from its Hong Kong based owners, Godin Holdings.

Uzan Akan is part of one of Turkey's most dominant and controversial families. The Uzan Group conglomerate included a bank, a string of power plant and broadcasting companies. But in 90's the Uzan family sparked controversy amid fraud complaints from Nokia and Motorola. 

In 1994, Uzan family borrowed money from Nokia and Motorola to set up mobile network, Telism. The company was later hit by financial difficulties, due to dotcom  crash, which led to defaulting on loans amounting $2.1 billion. The family was also accused of misusing the cash to pay for private jets and international properties by Motorola and Nokia, for which the companies were awarded multi-million dollar damages

In 2002, Uzan was found to be in contempt of the court, after he failed to attend a hearing in relation to allegations, for which he was sentenced to 15 months in prison for absentia. The battle with Nokia led to the fall from power for the Uzan Family. However, the trouble did not stop there, as their assets were seized over fraud allegations later in 2003. Since than, Uzan has been in exile and is seeking asylum in France.

As for Vertue, this is the third time the company's ownership is changing hands, since Nokia built it, back in the 90's. It was sold to Swedish equity group EQT VI back in 2001 for £175 million. The company was then sold to Godin Holding in 2015, and now belongs to Hakan Uzan. 

The Vertu brand, which was targeted at very rich people with handsets costing up to £40,000, hit trouble after it failed to catch the smartphone wave triggered by the launch of iPhone in 2007. Apart from a hefty price tag, another drawback of Vertu phone were the outdated specs. The most recent financial results of Vertu date back to 2014, where it reported a loss of of £53 million on sales on £110 million.

Uzan via a spokesperson, said to Daily Telegraph "Vertu is a powerful brand with an acknowledged market niche. I look forward to working with the team and providing the investment to enable Vertu to realize its full potential."

The past few months, has been all about brand resurrection, with two major iconic brand, Nokia and BlackBerry returning to the smartphone market, and the reception has been overwhelming both from critics and customers. It will be interesting to see what Uzan Hakan's grand plan is for Vertu. 

Source | Via

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