Geely founder buys majority stake in troubled phone maker Meizu

The Chinese auto giant has big plans for mobile.

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A man walks past the Meizu shop located in a mobile phone market, which is popular for imitation phones and counterfeit models, in Shenzhen, China. (Photo by Ryan Pyle/Corbis via Getty Images)
Ryan Pyle via Getty Images

Eric Li, founder of Chinese car giant Geely, has purchased a majority stake in the now-small smartphone maker Meizu. Bloomberg reports that Meizu will be run as an independent company under Xingli Technology, another tech brand in Li's portfolio. That said, the pair are expected to work together on new products, and Xingli has already expressed plans to make a big splash in the AR/VR space.

If you’ve been reading Engadget for long enough, you’ll have likely seen Meizu’s early rise at the dawn of the smartphone boom. Unfortunately, it found its lunch being eaten by other Chinese upstarts, including Xiaomi, and wound up remaining a small player. Back in 2015, Alibaba decided to take a stake in the company just as it found itself distracted by various boondoggles, including the baffling-in-retrospect decision to build phones with Ubuntu.

Geely, meanwhile, is perhaps best known in the West as the controlling owner of Volvo, Polestar and Lotus, all of which have been pushed towards electrification. Of course, with cars becoming more like phones (and phones becoming such a crucial part of most cars) the idea of automakers buying in to the phone space makes plenty of sense. As Reuters reports, both the mobile and car businesses are slowing down, and so deeper integration might be one way to corner the market.

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Updated Jul 7th, 9:15am ET: Amended to clarify the ownership relationship between Eric Li and Meizu. 

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