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Who Are the Most Influential CE People of Past 20 Years?

In celebration of its 20 years of publication, CE Pro is assembling a list of the most important people in the custom installation industry from the past two decades. Suggestions?


Tom Doherty graces the cover of our first standalone issue in 1995. Prior to that, “HA Pro” was an insert in Electronic House magazine.

Which people had the greatest influence on the custom installation business over the past 20 years? As of 2013, that’s how long CE Pro has been covering the industry, originally as HA Pro running as an insert in Electronic House, our consumer magazine.

We’re celebrating in 2013, starting with the February issue. Who should we celebrate?

We’re looking for suggestions for people that pushed the industry along, either through technology, business practices, evangelism, whatever.

Think way back, not just the past year or two.

Remember Tom Riley from Unity Systems, whose groundbreaking home automation system is still alive in many homes? He’d be a good one.

Innovators like George Feldstein (Crestron) and Joel Spira (Lutron) come to mind.

Personally, I’d put Daniel Tonks ( on the list. Likewise, Tricia Parks (Parks Associates). And naturally our very own founder and CEO Ken Moyes, who launched the industry’s first trade magazine, which is still the leader in both print and online.

Fortunately, I’m not making the list ... you are.

In the “comments” section below, please nominate some top influencers, and then we’ll put the nominees to a vote. The list will be revealed in the February issue of CE Pro magazine, and then we’ll be sharing other “Top 20s” throughout the year.


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About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Co-Founder, EH Publishing / Editor-at-large, CE Pro
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. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson. [More by Julie Jacobson]

17 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Richard Fregosa  on  12/12  at  07:55 PM

Off the top of my head - people who have influenced me and the industry greatly in the past 20 years - and in no particular order:

Sam Runco (Runco)
Chris Stevens (Phoenix Systems)
Peter McKean (Audio Design Associates)
Scott Miller / Peter York (AMX)
Michael Malcolm (Kaleidescape)
Scott Struthers (Sonance)
Joe Kane (Joe Kane Productions)
Joel Silver (ISF)
Tomlinson Holman (THX)
Yves Faroudja (Faroudja Labs)
Theo Kalomirakis (TK Theaters)
Sandy Gross (Definitine Technology)
Tom Doherty & Scott Jones (Escient/Gracenote/CDDB)

Posted by David Kaplan  on  12/12  at  08:34 PM

Laurie Fincham
Eric Bodley
Robert Heiblim
David Rodarte
Gary Wermuth
Joe Piccirilli
Chris Stevens
Jan-Luc Blackborn
Dennis Sage
Steve Raschke
Roger Heuberger

Posted by Michael smith  on  12/13  at  09:26 AM

Mike Tsunberg “father of DVD”

Posted by Keith Kennedy  on  12/13  at  09:47 AM

Eric Bodley
George Feldstein
Ivan Zuckerman
Tom Doherty
Chris Stevens
Richard Stoerger
Bob Farinelli
Joel Silver
Sam Runco
Doug Fikse
Maureen Jensen
Bob Gartland
Jeff Kussard

Posted by michael lakhter  on  12/13  at  12:20 PM

I think there were more DVD players sold in one year than all of the manufacturers listed above combined in their entire life time

Posted by Blake Manosh  on  12/13  at  03:23 PM

For Custom Installations (not home electronics as many manufacturers are):

Randy Stearns of Engineered Environments (recent Chairman of CEDIA)

A bio on Randy: Randy served as Chairman and Treasurer on the CEDIA Board of Directors. With a strong fundamental belief in the importance of education, Randy has committed himself to the continued growth and development of CEDIA education by serving as (1) an instructor for many years at CEDIA EXPO and Regional events, as well as at other industry tradeshows and conferences, (2) the CEDIA Business Track (ESB) Education and Curriculum Dean for the past four years, (3) a subject matter expert (SME) for ESB core curriculum, and (4) an advisor to the organizing committee for the CEDIA Management Conference. Randy championed and was a major contributor to the industry benchmarking survey and leads the association’s effort to establish industry best practices and peer groups. Randy also has served as Industry Outreach Council Chair for several years.

Beyond CEDIA, Randy’s company has completed hundreds of projects that integrate home entertainment, communications, lighting control, climate control, security and surveillance systems for exclusive properties in the U.S. and abroad.

Randy is also an investor in new technologies that aim to further improve the CE industry such as (Mosaiqq, a multi-display multitouch technology, and Construcs, a new project management cloud-based software for installers)

Posted by jbrown  on  12/13  at  03:25 PM

In no particular order (regurgitated names at the top of the list, originals at the bottom) I’m sure I forgot some great people, my apologies to them in advance.
Sam Runco
Peter McKean
Scott Miller
Michael Malcolm
Scott Struthers
Joe Kane
Joel Silver
Tomlinson Holman
Yves Faroudja
Tom Doherty
George Feldstein
Joel Spira
Gary Shapiro (CEA)
Floyd Toole (Harman)
Gisela Schoell (Inside Track)

Jason Brown

Posted by Harold  on  12/13  at  03:47 PM

Although not directly in our industry:

Steve Jobs

Posted by Will West  on  12/13  at  04:25 PM

Julie Jacobson

Posted by JOE CLAYTON  on  12/13  at  04:44 PM

Joe Clayton brought small dish satellite to the forefront in June 1994 and really got it going through RCA satellite systems and Direct tv.

It improved audio and video quality and allowed us to sell many home audio systems because of the increased multi channel audio from movies, and enhanced sound.

Big Ed Wernsing
Wernsing’s Appl. & Video

Posted by Loren Roetman  on  12/14  at  12:25 AM

From my personal experience:

for Manufacturers,
Michael Kelly
Phil Clements
Eric Johnson
Jeremy Burkhardt
Scott Struthers
Geoffrey Marks
James Wellnitz

for Reps,
Jack Ryan
Paul Brown
Bill Grover
Paul Collins

for Dealers,
the Upchurch Family of HiFI Sales
Bob Rosser of Ultimate Entertainment
Buzz Jensen of Sound Advice
Jerry and Claudia Kowitz of Jerry’s
Paul Einan of AV Contractors

I have worked for two and wished I had for the others. All pioneers who have been mentors, a positive influence and a major benefit to hundreds of us in this business here in Phoenix.

Posted by David Haines  on  12/14  at  03:10 PM

I would add the pioneering work of Morris Kessler, currently owner or ATI and Theta Digital.

Posted by Rick Murphy  on  12/15  at  04:45 AM

—Ivan Zuckerman (Niles founder)
—Larry Pexton (Triad founder and President)
—Peter Tribeman (AtlanticTechnology)
—Frank White (Channel Plus)
—Rick Schuett (Lutron)
—Herb Seymour (Xantech founder)
—Albert Langella/Peter McKean/Rich Stoerger (ADA)
—Scott Struthers/Geoff Spencer (Sonance founders)
—Bob Farinelli/Paul Starkey (Elan)
—Chris Stevens (AudioAccess/Harman Group)
—Brad Alves (ran Columbia A/V’s custom division, from the late 70s until they folded)
The only retailer named in the lawsuit against VCRs in the 70s.
—Steve Raitt (ProLine Systems) ProLine’s projects were on the cover of Audio/Video Interiors magazine more times than any other company.
—Tom Doherty
—Mitch Klein
—Sam Runco
—Henry Kloss

I could do this for hours….

Posted by David Feldman  on  12/15  at  02:44 PM

I would nominate Paul Collins.  He was instrumental in bringing two iconic brands to market, Niles Audio and SpeakerCraft.  He was also the first representative for both companies.

Most people associate Paul only with the rep company he founded in 1982. What many don’t know and others may have forgotten, Paul was recruited by Niles founder Ivan Zuckerman to create and manage the sales & marketing for Niles, a position he held until 1993.

In 1994, SpeakerCraft was a OEM that wanted to transform to a dealer direct model. SpeakerCraft owners Ed Haase and Jeff King hired Paul as VP of Sales and Marketing. He left that role in 2000, with Jeremy Burkhardt assuming Paul’s former position.

Paul Collins Associates is also a Charter and Founding Member of CEDIA, the only rep company to have this distinction. 

As a rep company he brought many brands to prominence as their original regional representative. A partial list includes; Niles, Xantech, SoundStream, √Član, Faroudja,
Da-lite, DirecTV, Arcam, Ultralink, Channel Vision, Sim2, SpeakerCraft, Salamander, Bryston, Key Digital, Vutec, Stealth Acoustics, Leon, Sonos, Krell and Martin Logan.

Amazing after 40 years in this industry Paul continues to bring innovation, inspiration and dedication to our industry.

Posted by Brent McCall  on  12/15  at  04:12 PM

While not 12 here are some that I think made a big difference (and Why).

Noel Lee;
(there is money/margin in cables and accessories).

Fred Yando and Laurie Fincham;
(KEF brought HiFi and Margin to dealers).

George Feldstein;
(Automation could be profitable).

Bill Hecht;
(Soft dome tweeter, many well known brands and again margin).

Henry Kloss (Small speakers and Big TV’s and did I mention margin).

Ivan Zuckerman (Niles gave what we needed for custom instals and margin).

Sam Runco (the Carroll Shelby of Video and margin).

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