Curtain comes down on a “Crazy” era

Crazy John’s, the popular mobile phone business founded by entrepreneur John Ilhan in 1991 will cease operations on 30 September 2014.

Crazy John’s made its name as an innovative and irreverent retailer unafraid to challenge the big operators. Starting out as ‘Mobileworld’, John Ilhan soon changed the name to ‘Crazy John’s’, embracing the moniker given to his company by rivals who were astounded at his strategy of $1 mobile phones, ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ offers and cash-back incentives.

The company became a well-known backer of Australian Rules Football, sponsoring the AFL Footy Show for nearly two decades, and once caused a stir when it tried to buy the naming rights to Perth’s Subiaco Oval, an attempt thwarted by the local council.

Crazy John’s was an active sponsor of many amateur and professional clubs and sporting associations. John Ilhan, together with his wife Patricia, started the Ilhan Food Allergy Foundation to support research into allergies and help find a cure for anaphylaxis.

In 2007, Crazy John’s also began offering mobile phone connectivity through the Vodafone network. Vodafone purchased the company after John Ilhan passed away suddenly in 2007.

In January 2013, Vodafone announced it was streamlining under the single Vodafone brand. Over the next few months Crazy John’s retail stores were closed or reopened as Vodafone outlets. Vodafone also closed the ‘3’ business at the end of August last year.

Vodafone’s Director of Sales, Ben McIntosh, said the closure marked the end of an era.

“Vodafone is also a company that made its name challenging the status quo to benefit customers, and we have a great deal of respect and admiration for the company John Ilhan founded 23 years ago.

“Crazy John’s was a dynamic, energetic company that generated goodwill by putting the customer first. Over the course of our seven-year association, Vodafone has learned a lot about retail and customer service excellence from Crazy John’s and its staff.

“We understand we need to respect this legacy and we’ll always seek to be the brand that pulls the mobile phone industry closer to the customer’s needs, not the other way around.

“Over the coming weeks we’ll be writing to Crazy John’s customers reminding them of the final closure and their options for the future.

“We look forward to welcoming those Crazy John’s customers who are coming over to Vodafone, and we say goodbye to those who are leaving and thank them for their loyalty and support over the years,” Mr McIntosh said.

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Notes to editors:

A record of contact between Vodafone and Crazy John’s customers is available here.

Crazy John’s timeline:

  • 1991: John Ilhan opens his first store in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick. He would be the first to offer $1 mobile phones on the Australian market, earning him the nickname ‘Crazy’ from bemused competitors
  • 1994: Crazy John’s sponsors The Footy Show, a partnership that would last 18 seasons
  • 2003: Crazy John’s passes 100 retail outlets
  • 2007: Crazy John’s branches out from retail and offers mobile connectivity on the Vodafone network
  • 2007: John Ilhan passes away
  • 2008: Vodafone buys a controlling interest in Crazy John’s from John Ilhan’s widow, Patricia
  • January – February 2013: Crazy John’s stores closed
  • 30 September 2014: Crazy John’s will cease operations and all postpaid services will be deactivated