Luxury smartphone manufacturer Vertu is once again switching hands, with the erstwhile Nokia brand now owned by an exiled Turkish businessman. According to The Telegraph, Vertu's owners have sold the company to an investment fund headed up by Hakan Uzan for £50 million.
Uzan has been in exile since 2003 following judicial persecution after his family's telecom venture Telsim ran into financial troubles. The Uzan family borrowed money from Nokia and Motorola to set up Telsim in 1994, but the dotcom crash led to severe financial difficulties, which led to the operator defaulting on loans amounting to over $2.1 billion.
There were also allegations that the Uzan family diverted money — over $1 billion — to pay for private jets and other luxury items, and as a result Nokia and Motorola sued the Uzan Group and won damages in excess of $4 billion. The Uzans have received political asylum in France, but their current whereabouts are unknown.
As for Vertu, the luxury brand has suffered its own share of pitfalls after Nokia sold the brand to Swedish equity group EQT VI back in 2012 for £175 million. The company was then sold to Hong Kong-based fund Godin Holdings in 2015 for an undisclosed amount. The most recent financial results for Vertu date back to 2014, when the brand recorded a loss of £53 million on sales on £110 million.
It looks like Uzan has grand plans for the luxury brand, based on his comment to The Telegraph delivered via a spokesman:
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 realise its full potential.