Marcelo Claure, president and founder of Brightstar, is confident he can challenge 20:20’s position as the undisputed leader of the UK market.
Speaking exclusively to Mobile at the end of last year, Claure said: 'From the conversations I've had, there's not a lot of people in love with 20:20 and distributors, period. I know this because they are welcoming us with open arms,' says Claure. His comments come as Brightstar has started to pick up supplier and customer contracts that have proved elusive since its launch.
Brightstar is understood to be close to a firm commitment from Samsung after a period on trial. It has also won deals through Sony Ericsson and recently secured a wide-ranging deal to supply Microsoft-based PDAs and smartphones.
There is also a growing feeling among other distributors that the strides Brightstar has made in developing its Tesco account as well as using sister company and IT distributor, Computer2000, to open up IT dealers will mean it is very close to landing its most prized supplier – Nokia.
Up until now, Brightstar has been embroiled in battles over senior personnel.
Brightstar had to wait six months to have European chief Rod Millar free to work in the UK, and was blocked in its move to make former 20:20 sales director Richard Baxendale Brightstar's UK MD.
'In the UK, you have something called “garden leave”,' he said. 'In other places, you get someone and they start working. Employers are protective about people.'
20:20 sought an injunction to block the move.
'We are in this battle with 20:20 over Richard. I think it's wrong. If someone doesn't want to work for you, he should be left to earn elsewhere.'
Claure added: 'People are important. The most important, you could say, to a business. That's why I think 20:20 are in trouble: they keep losing people.'
The appointment of Rod Millar as Brightstar's European chief was met with shock and made many in the market start taking the prospect very seriously.
Millar first met Claure when the latter visited 20:20 last July, ahead of the sale of the Caudwell Group to discuss potential deals between the two distributors.
Millar, who had been with 20:20 for seven years, was assessing his options as the company changed ownership from Caudwell to private equity group Doughty Hanson.
That summer, Millar had arranged a holiday for his children to Disneyland in Florida. While he was there, he dug out Claure's business card and suggested it would be useful to pay a visit to the famous Brightstar operation.
At the end of a five-hour drive from the world's most famous theme park to the world's biggest mobile distributor, the two met again. Claure revealed his plans for Europe and after some tentative enquiries, Millar had found a new boss. And Claure had his man to head up the European business.