Grant Rummell Reflects on 23 Years Running Nortek CE Brands
Under Grant Rummell's leadership, Nortek and its Linear subsidiaries acquired an impressive stable of custom- and consumer-electronics brands.
Grant Rummell, the man responsible for amassing the largest collection of home technology manufacturers ever assembled, retired after 23 years at Nortek. Rummell most recently served as chairman and CEO of Nortek’s Linear subsidiary, running its stable of home technology brands.
Among the impressive brands under his purview: Elan Home Systems, Gefen, Linear (security division), LiteTouch, Magenta Research, Niles Audio, OmniMount (recently merged with Ergotron, another mount manufacturer in the Linear home tech family), Panamax, Secure Wireless, SpeakerCraft, Sunfire and Xantech.
Linear was “just” a home security manufacturer when Rummell joined the company in 1988. But as the company grew through acquisitions starting in the mid-1990s, it became a leading provider of garage door openers, loudspeakers, home automation, wireless technology, power management and more.
As Rummell tells CE Pro, Linear began its acquisition spree as a way to sell more products to its security dealer customer base.
“We were in markets where we didn’t have technologies,” he says, recalling the first acquisition: Multiplex Technologies, Inc., then a leading provider of structured wiring systems. Security dealers certainly were seen as a strong channel for infrastructure wiring.
More than a decade later, this strategy was echoed when Elan Home Systems “bought HomeLogic and Sunfire so they could round out their high-end offerings,” Rummell says.
But he says there was not one overarching strategy for buying up companies, other than to acquire profitable ones … mostly.
Certainly there were substantial opportunities for consolidating manufacturing overseas – which Linear has done pretty much across the board.
Other times, he says, “There were companies where we thought we could improve their financial position. A lot of times during growth spurts, some companies are a little strapped for capital.”
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Still in other cases, “There was a little bit of consolidation – where we could help each other, maybe, instead of compete against each other.”
Certainly that was the case with Panamax and Furman – two power management companies that were “just around the corner” from each other geographically.
But Rummell does say for certain that the end game was never a strategy for Nortek to “build it up and sell it. I think we proved it. Certainly if that were the strategy, I think we would have sold it a long time ago.”
“There’s definitely a plan to stay the course,” Rummell says about the future of Nortek and its home technology group. “We’re certainly still investing and making plans for the future.”
Nortek has not named a successor to Rummell, although the plan is apparently to fill that role. Recently, Nortek CEO Richard Bready resigned and the company named Michael Clarke the new chief.
Grant Rummell Speaks About …
Rummell’s retirement party was filled with folly. He even roasted a couple dozen colleagues and partners, including myself. He did share these insights when interviewed by CE Pro last year:
SpeakerCraft’s Jeremy Burkhardt (right) has been a “good disruption,” Rummell says. He is pictured here with Mark Terry, president of the AVC Group.
Jeremy Burkhardt, SpeakerCraft founder and controversial CEO: “He’s been a good disruption. He’s done a lot of things in the market to build awareness. He made a case that between manufacturers and dealers there has to be relationships that go beyond them just being a supplier and a buyer.”
Bob Farinelli, founder and retired CEO of Elan: “He made a point that there is definitely a need for continual engineering applied to products.”
Bill Pollock, president of Panamax/Furman: “He has shown that if you’re going to run a company successfully, you have got to have management that gets it, to build a team that’s focused on the particular things they do well.”
Wireless: We were all wired guys. Now, with WiFi becoming a disruptive factor, if your product isn’t WiFi-related, it’s probably not going to be the right thing in a few years.”
Pleasant surprises: What I really was amazed by is that you could take competitor or dissimilar brands and have them be in the same group without dissension.
Nortek’s (mostly) hands-off approach to acquired brands: “I guess what I’m proudest of: In the acquisitions we’ve made—25 or 26 of them—I lost so few managers, so few heads of companies because we forced some kind of organization on them.”
Investors: “I appreciate the investors. They gave me a lot of money to spend on companies.”
The bigness of the Linear/Nortek home technology group: I’ve missed the fact that I’m not as close to customers, not as close to the sales force. I loved the smaller trade shows.”
Retirement Party Pics
Rummell with his wife, Nedra
Rummell with favorite female editor of CE Pro
AVC Group presidents Paul Starkey, Elan; Graham Hallett, Xantech; Mark Terry, AVC Group; Mike “Sparky” Detmer, Niles
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at [email protected]
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