SELF-SYLED 'luxury' smartphone maker Vertu has decided to call it a day because its devices are simply too ridiculous even for the internatijet setetset elite at whom its vulgar devices are/were aimed.
That's according to the Financial Times, which reports that the company is to be wound-up after failing to drum-up a further round of finance.
The closure of the company will cause job losses for up to 200 staff, although the writing had been on the wall for some time. Just over two weeks ago, staff were complaining that their June wages were overdue, and the company's published accounts indicated that in 2014 it made a whacking loss of £53m on sales of just £110m.
Vertu's devices were made at its manufacturing facilities in Hampshire and featured embedded jewels, such as rubies and sapphires, as well as expensive materials, such as gold and alligator leather.
Prices for its core 'Signature' feature phones started at around £11,000 for the cheap and nasty Stainless Steel Black Leather model, and scaled all the way up to £39,100 for the glorious Clous De Paris Red Gold model, which is encrusted in 18-carat red gold and clad in black leather.
But the Signature devices would have been outdated ten years ago. Running Linux, they didn't offer app stores or any of the other accoutrements that even the global jetset might expect from a device at one-hundreth of the cost.
Vertu also offered a range of Android smartphones, starting at £4,500 for the leather-clad Aster range.
Earlier this year, the company also added the Vertu Constellation to its range, which in terms of specs didn't look too bad, and was also mercifully free of gold, sapphires, rubies, emeralds and other unnecessary evidence of more money than taste. However, this never quite saw the light of day.
One of the key features of Vertu devices was a button on the handset that could summon a 24-hour concierge service, but this was suspended earlier this year to enable the company, or so it said, to "focus on developing a completely new, next generation suite of services", which was to launch in September 2017.
Vertu was established by Nokia back in 1998 when the Finnish company was the runaway global market leader in mobile phones. It sold out to private equity group EQT VI in 2012, retaining only a ten per cent stake.
Quite remarkably, the company had shifted about 450,000 devices by 2015, sold via 500 retailers, including 70 owned and operated by the company itself. Vertu was passed on by EQT to Hong Kong-based Godin Holdings in 2015, and then pimped out to a Turkish exile Hakan Uzan for £50m in March this year.
The Uzan family were pushed out of Turkey more than 10 years ago after some major business failures, including a $2.7bn debt default at Uzan Group's mobile phone operator Telsim, and a crash at the family-run Imar Bank.
That prompted the Turkish Turkish Savings and Deposits Insurance Fund to seize more than 200 companies in the Uzan Group in order (it claimed) to plug the black hole.
The Turkish government, meanwhile, accused the Uzan family of a major fraud at the Bank - a charge they denied - and the family made like shepherds and got the flock out of there, seeking asylum in France.
They presumably took a few bob with them to keep them in the style to which they'd become accustomed.
Uzan has also held on to the Vertu brand name, but that's presumably not worth a great deal. µ
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