Sound United Finalizes Acquisition of Bowers and Wilkins

October 12 2020, 02:10
Sound United, the parent company to Denon, Polk Audio, Marantz, Definitive Technology, Classé, and Boston Acoustics, announced that it has finalized the acquisition of Bowers & Wilkins, the famous British brand and manufacturer of luxury home audio speakers, headphones, custom installation products, wireless speakers, and branded audio systems in the automotive and television markets. Following an intricate corporate dispute within former owner EVA Automation, the company initiated negotiations with Sound United in May 2020, with Geoff Edwards leading the operations as CEO.

In mid June, Bowers & Wilkins formerly announced they had begun "early stage talks" with Sound United to explore opportunities for the two businesses to combine. While Sound United initially discussed "an acquisition" of Bowers & Wilkins, the negotiations were apparently intended for Sound United to mainly gain control over the distribution of the core hi-fi products, and not necessarily the ownership of the company, which had in recent years diversified its manufacturing operations in Asia.

When Sound United announced it had entered into a preliminary agreement to acquire Bowers & Wilkins - with Kevin Duffy, CEO at Sound United, stating that "B&W is a transformative brand and we look forward to the opportunity to finalize the transaction," Bowers & Wilkins was quick to distribute a press release of their own. In that message the British company stated that "Discussions between Bowers & Wilkins and Sound United are at an early stage" and that "Should the two brands decide to move forward, Sound United would acquire all worldwide third-party distribution and licensing agreements under which Bowers & Wilkins premium audio products are currently sold. This does not affect any of the existing Bowers & Wilkins product portfolio or any of the products Bowers & Wilkins currently distributes or current global operations," they clarified.

Earlier in 2020, B&W had indeed confirmed a restructuring was taking place following the departure of their CEO, Gregory Lee and the souring of the relationship with the Asian entrepreneurs who had pushed for the B&W Formation product strategy, a totally new multi-room wireless range. The internal disputes lead Bowers & Wilkins to the position of being forced to look for new investment support and secure its UK operations. The process seems to be now concluded with a formal agreement with Sound United.

"Acquiring Bowers & Wilkins combines its industry-leading acoustic design, engineering and manufacturing expertise in the premium category with Sound United’s scale, technical acumen and consumer reach to ensure Bowers & Wilkins thrives moving forward," says Kevin Duffy. "Sound United has a strong track record of enthusiastically protecting each of its brands’ unique identities and core competencies, and our approach with Bowers & Wilkins will be no different. In fact, we believe the entire portfolio stands to benefit from the addition of Bowers & Wilkins, which in turn translates into exciting new products, technologies and opportunities for our consumers, distributors, dealers, and all audio enthusiasts around the world."

Geoff Edwards will ensure continuity by becoming President of the Bowers & Wilkins brand at Sound United. The acquisition includes all worldwide third-party distribution and licensing agreements under which Bowers & Wilkins premium audio products are currently sold. The agreement also confirms that Sound United will continue to support the development of new Bowers & Wilkins products "to support the brand’s position in the premium acoustic home audio market."

"This acquisition represents a new era for Bowers & Wilkins and offers a fresh opportunity to focus on what we do best, building the industry's finest loudspeakers," says Geoff Edwards, CEO of Bowers & Wilkins. "We’re looking forward to combining our organizations and becoming a part of the industry’s strongest portfolio of premium audio brands."

Sound United is a portfolio company of Boston-based private equity firm Charlesbank Capital Partners, LLC. Houlihan Lokey, an American multinational independent investment bank and financial services company, served as the exclusive financial advisor to Bowers & Wilkins. |
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