Vertu: Last Call for British Luxury Mobile Phone Maker?
Vertu Corporation Limited (Vertu), a manufacturer and retailer of luxury mobile phones, was founded as a subsidiary of Nokia in 2000. It was later acquired by a Swedish private equity firm in 2012, and then sold to Godin Holdings in 2015. Despite these multiple corporate ownership transitions, Vertu had remained uniquely positioned, differentiated by its phones' bejewelled embellishments and a worldwide concierge service available at the touch of a button. The luxury phones were sought after by ultra-high net worth individuals as instantly recognizable status symbols akin to luxury watches. However, in the early 2000s, the introduction of luxury-priced, full-featured iPhones; the decline of conspicuous consumption among ultra-high net worth individuals after the financial crisis; and the anticorruption movement in Asia rendered Vertu's business model unsustainable. Or was it? In July 2017, Vertu's new owner faced a critical decision upon the liquidation of Vertu. Should he sell or license the remaining brand assets to a luxury brand owner or retrench in China to focus on existing customers without taking into consideration the ethical and reputational implications to the brand in the rest of the world? Margaret Osborne is affiliated with Seneca College of Applied Arts & Technology. Ken Kwong-Kay Wong is affiliated with University of Toronto.