Thiel Audio Acquired by Outside Investors
Thiel Audio has been acquired by Nashville-based private equity firm; co-founder Kathy Gornik has left the legendary speaker manufacturer, CE Pro has learned.
Julie Jacobson · November 28, 2012
CE Pro has learned that Thiel co-founder and president Kathy Gornik, the only woman to serve as chairman of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), has left the company. So, too, has her right-hand woman, Dawn Cloyd, formerly the director of international sales.
One of the investors, Bill Thomas will assume the role as CEO of Thiel. No other information is known about the group at this time, and few details were provided in the press release issued today other than such platitudes from Thomas: “We identified Thiel as a brand with an unmatched heritage in performance audio and it is our intent to invest in the company’s infrastructure, strengthening the engineering department first and foremost.”
Gornik founded Thiel in 1977 with Jim Thiel, who passed away in 2009. The goal was to design and engineer made-in-the-U.S.A. high-performance loudspeakers that stood the test of time. Thiel, which continues to make speakers in its Lexington, Ky.-based office, has held true to that mission.
“It is my hope that the investors continue in the tradition of Jim Thiel and Kathy Gornik by continuing to provide superior American-made products,” Rich Jackson, an independent rep for Thiel, tells CE Pro. “Jim Thiel created a considerable pool of engineering data that has yet to be implemented.”
Thiel’s first speaker was the Model 03, which introduced the residential audio market to Thiel’s phase coherent design principles. Over the past three decades, Thiel has grown significantly through an array of freestanding speakers for the two-channel and home theater categories, as well as architectural products that address in-wall and in-ceiling applications.
Throughout the evolution of the company’s product line, Thiel’s late co-founder and product design engineer Jim Thiel continually refined and improved upon his phase coherent speaker designs through advanced engineering concepts that culminated with the release of the Thiel Audio CS3.7 loudspeaker back in 2006.
Thiel co-founder and president Kathy Gornik, former CEA chairperson (Image: CEVision, a CEA publication)
Thiel recently launched its custom shop initiative to supply dealers with unique, one-off versions of any speaker within its product line. In addition, Thiel debuted its latest product, the floorstanding CS2.7, in October 2012.
With such a rich heritage, some have wondered if Thiel could keep up with modern times, says Mark Cichowski, CEO of Clarity AV, which reps Thiel. But Cichowski says Brad Paulsen, named Thiel’s national sales manager in January 2012, has “done a good job helping to introduce Thiel to a new generation. They are definitely gaining traction there.”
Paulsen is staying with the new organization, as are Gary Dayton (director of product development), Lana Ruth (sales coordinator) and Rob Gillum (director of manufacturing), the entire factory team and the existing sales channel, according to today’s press release (next page).
Cichowski has only represented Thiel for one year, but after visiting with Gornik and Cloyd earlier in 2012, “we really got to be good friends,” he says, echoing a sentiment of most Thiel reps and dealers.
“They’re rare in this industry,” he adds. “Hopefully the investors will be able to maintain that passion.”
There’s no telling what Gornik plans to do post-Thiel, but she has been extremely active in free-market and entrepreneurial causes.
Robert Archer contributed to this report.
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@example.com
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