B&W Sold to a Silicon Valley Startup

Did you all see this news:


I hope it's not a bad omen for a great brand.
This is a very interesting development.   Just thinking into the keyboard...

You've got a younger generation which values convenience, instant access, and ease-of-use...

We've already seen Dynaudio come out with the Xeo line of speakers which combines the DAC and amp in the speaker and accepts the signal wirelessly to simplify the whole system-building process...

You've got a startup which apparently wants to specialize in home automation and which likely will build competitive advantage around software and integration...

And they just acquired the speaker hardware infrastructure to build their home-automation audio systems around.

Think all-in-one integration, think wireless, think walk in your front door and hit a single button on an iPhone app and music fills the house.  

Given what we know about shifting demographics and the economic landscape I think we all know that dramatic change is coming to the audio industry.    B&W selling out to this particular entity may very well be a sea change event. 

For current B&W owners, I wouldn't imagine this would change anything in terms of support, at least in the intermediate term.  Looking forward 7-10 years, who knows what the company will look like, both in terms of product portfolio and financial health.

This is deeply disturbing news - but it mirrors what is happening in some other fields that have traditionally needed high talent levels and were yet niche. Like fashion - where even someone like Dior needed to take external funding from LVMH to keep the level of talent needed to run their ateliers. The truth is that, in the fashion industry, these companies make most of their money selling handbags and perfumes- and the haute couture is mostly for show. It is why people know of the brand, but not the thing that makes money. So they impression they have is one of artisanal creation, rarified talent and prestige - but the thing they make money on is none of those.

This feels like that pinch that made companies like Dior feel like they needed to turn in the mass market direction might be the same thing that affects high end audio as well. After all, there are only so many people that will care about spending $10,000 on a speaker to be run with equally expensive electronics and cables. Probably the same number of people as would buy a $50,000 dress/gown on a regular basis.

I bet if this goes well, B&W will use the influx of cash to continue to make the highly expensive equipment like the Nautilus. That would become their equivalent of haute couture. However, the bulk of what they sell, majority of revenue, their retail channels and accessibility will all become decidedly more mass market.

Strange and sad times.
@ coli

He sold it for an equity stake in the new combined entity, which is still privately-held and VC-funded, not yet publicly traded.  The purchasing firm doesn't have that level of funding for a cash purchase. 

Makes me wonder...given how many VC-backed private equity deals are finally being seen for the ZIRP-driven, QE-liquidity unicorn-fantasies they are, with valuations called into question, I wonder if that's a part of the buyer's mentality.   Add hard, leveragable assets, a predictable cash flow and globally-known brand name with marketable value and overnight the unicorn startup turns into a real company that will likely have no trouble raising additional equity.

Sounds like a new direction for B&W and will be interesting to see what happens.
jmcgrogan2, good point. B&W also owns Rotel brand. In the acquisition news, there was no mention of Classe and Rotel brands.   

I wonder about their future as well. Never cared for Rotel but I sincerely hope for better Classe amps than current Delta series. 

Let's hope for bigger and better things for B&W / Classe brand. 
It sounds like the Venture guy just bought himself a brand and retail distribution.  He also got a CEO from inside the high-end audio business - which probably bodes well for (tho hardly guarantees) future product audio quality.  Beyond that, I think it would be hard to conclude what's likely to happen to the products (beyond software integration).  I wouldn't view this as a bad thing.
I think the assembled have stated nearly all of the aspects of this turn of events.  Ultimately the market's contraction and the shift towards 'I-gadget' convenience is going to radically change what is offered and what 'makes the cut' to market.  That....and what will line the pockets of stockholders, as that drives the 'vc' market basically.  The sale of 'potential' has become more relevant than actual sales of a product, whether it exists or is still 'under development' or 'in beta' or being touted as the 'next Big Thing'.  When we see an infant company being bought for staggering levels that may be other than real cash on the table, I suspect that future investor/buyers are being dangled bait to buy stock in the 'new venture'.  Admittedly, there are those ventures that will come to fruition, will 'hit big', and actually have a product.  A 'known name' assists in this aspect.

And then there's the 'vaporware', the ones that become the 'next big nothing'.  And I'd bet there are those that 'got theirs' from it, knowing when to step off the wave before it fizzled.

VR and MR are already being looked at as being 'bigger than cellphones'.  That's where the major money is moving now.  The B&W deal is peanuts, as was/is Dior....

Expect a shakeout of the 'artisanal audio' market at some time soon...those of us that 'know the difference' (or feel we do) are truly dying off.  And digital reproduction is overwhelmingly cheaper to the mass market.  Analog will still remain, but it's market will contract to the few that enjoy 'that sort of sound' as it has already....

Wait for the product that will offer 'analog sound' digitally.  It already exists in pro audio for musicians, amps and processors that simulate 'tubes'.  We can try them now...start a whole new forum on which ones sound better, which tube/tube combinations they simulate best...

That ought to be lively.... ;)

Not trying to be snide or jerk anyone's chain, really...just MHO, more or less like yours. *S*
I'm worried that on a 3-5 year horizon B&W becomes more focused on "home entertainment" instead of its audiophile heritage.  That's where the money is, but I hope this great company doesn't lose sight of the audiophile...
High end B&W speakers seem to sell on unique design versus functionality! Been putting systems together for 40 years! Present system got around 60k in it! Good rule of thumb!! Spent your money on quality amp and preamp! Good amps make lower price speakers sing!!!! Think about this! Corporations arnt sold out if they are truly "cash Cows" B&W seemed to be like the Kennedys and Vanderbilts, good name, old news!
aleopold & pennsy, we can but hope...but previously we've seen past 'notables' such as AR and Infinity kinda 'lose it'....  There will be survivors, yes, But...

Like the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times."  Well, we do.  I won't go into the length and breath of that discussion in this fair function at this junction. ;)  You can fill in that blank as you wish.....

All will bow to the new digital altar in some way or another.  Some of it will be a Good Thing, really.  Others, eh, not so much 'revolutionary'.  Some might seem 'devolutionary' to our *ahem* 'rarefied tastes'.  One will pick and choose, as we do now...

The future....Live it, or live with it.  'Twas always thus.... *S*
@ pennsy - not sure if I could disagree with a post more than I do yours.   In fact, I disagree with everything in your post.

While I'm sure many high-end B&W owners would tell you they do enjoy the design qualities of their speakers, I'm quite certain they'll also tell you that they don't buy them just to sit in the corner in the event that gravity reverses and the carpet tries to fly away.  

And while I wouldn't tell anyone not to buy the best amp their heart desires, I believe the speakers are more important to how a system sounds than the amp.  Or, said a different way, let's get together...I'll bring a $1000 Yamaha home theater receiver and a pair of B&W 802 D3 (or a pair of Vandersteen Carbons, or Wilson Sashas, you can pick) and you can bring any $30,000 amp you like and any $1000 pair of speakers you like, and we'll see which system sounds more impressive.

And of course corporations are sold, whether they're cash cows or not.  Until science and medicine can prevent human mortality, allowing people to live and enjoy their business assets forever, privately-held companies are going to be passed from one party to another.   You can't take the factory into the grave with you.

As for B&W being old news...I'm going to assume you've had a little too much cough syrup today.  You know that stuff has alcohol in it, yes?