Some important mergers and acquisitions in the custom electronics industry occurred in 2012. It wasn’t the biggest year in M&As for the industry, but it was a significant one, as some of the most iconic brands—including LiteTouch, HAI and Thiel—were snapped up by insiders and outside investors.
In addition, some of the industry faithfuls left their day jobs to launch new companies.
Below are some of the notable acquisitions and start-ups of 2012, complementing our feature story: “Biggest CE Stories of 2012.”
Thiel Acquired by Outside Investors. It’s the end of the era for one of the most hallowed names in audio: Thiel Audio. Founded in 1977 in Lexington, Ky., the made-in-America business was acquired by a Nashville private-equity firm, which says it “can improve efficiencies … in the product development and manufacturing stages,shortening the time to delivery for new products with zero compromise in product quality.” Thiel co-founder Kathy Gornik left the company.
Leviton Acquires Home Automation Inc. HAI is one of the original (and longest surviving) developers of mass-market home control, and in 2012 it was acquired by Leviton Manufacturing, one of the original makers of lighting controls, wiring products and other high- and low-voltage gear. For about two decades, Leviton has tried unsuccessfully to break into the home-control business in any meaningful way. This may be the ticket.
Legrand Acquires NuVo Technologies. Legrand North America includes some staple CE brands, including Middle Atlantic, On-Q and Vantage Controls. And while both On-Q and Vantage offer some multiroom audio products, neither delivers the breadth of products as NuVo Technologies, a leading brand among custom installers. This may be one of the most sensible acquisitions of the past few years.
Vivint, 2Gig Acquired by Blackstone Capital for $2B. Two of the biggest success stories in home automation – Vivint and 2Gig – were acquired by the the private equity firm Blackstone Capital Partners for $2 billion. 2Gig makes the Go!Control self-contained security/home automation panel, and Vivint is its largest customer, with revenues of $312 million. Vivint is best known for its sometimes-controversial door-to-door sales tactics.
Eaton to Acquire Cooper Industries for $11.8B. The $2 billion sales price of Vivint and 2Gig was small potatoes compared the the nearly $12 billion Eaton is paying to acquire Cooper Industries. Eaton is a giant in the electrical world, while Cooper makes low-voltage video modules, wall plates, data modules, structured wiring enclosures, and phone modules.
Russound Sells Colorado vNet to Former VP Sales; Renamed 3vNet. If people’s livelihood weren’t dependent on the company, the saga of Colorado vNet might be comical. But jobs and investments do and did rely on the maker of lighting control and home automation systems, so it’s nice that the company has another home. The company had been acquired (and then closed, and then reopened) by Russound, but Russound went back to its deep roots as a specialist in multiroom audio. Former Russound VP sales and marketing Mike Anderson acquired vNet from his former employer, and renamed it 3vNet.
D+M Sells McIntosh to Fine Sounds. The 73-year old iconic audio brand McIntosh Laboratory was sold by D+M Group (formerly D&M Holdings) by Milan, Italy-based Find Sounds SpA. Fine Sounds has been accumulating other respectable audio brands over the past few years including Sonus faber, Audio Research, Wadia Digital and Sumiko.
Tri-Ed/Northern Video Distribution Acquired by Audax Group. Tri-Ed/Northern Video Distribution, a distributor of electronic security products and other low-voltage products, was snapped up by the investment firm Audax. Tri-Ed/Northern has 47 branches in the U.S. and Canada.
Savant Acquires LiteTouch. Nortek was ready to divest LiteTouch, which it acquired in 2007. As it happens, Savant Systems, maker of Apple-based home control systems, was “the last major control player without its own lighting control.” A match made in heaven? At CEDIA 2012, Savant showed integrated keypads based on LiteTouch designs, featuring a built-in thermostat and whole-house control features. The keypads sit on LiteTouch’s two-wire bus.
Former CEDIA CEO Launches Ad-Supported Home Automation Platform. Less than a year after departing CEDIA as its first CEO, Utz Baldwin launched a home automation firm, Ube, which is building solutions based on the Internet of Things, controlling devices with built-in IP.
Former Lutron Exec Takes iControl Security/Automation to CE Channel. Jeff Zemanek left Lutron after 15 years as a sales exec to launch G2i (Generation 2 Interactive) with Reed Stevens. The new company aims to sell iControl cloud-enabled security and automation solutions to the custom channel. Previously, iControl (co-founded by Reed’s father and CEDIA founder Chris Stevens) was available only to mass marketers such as ADT and Comcast/Xfinity.
Former SpeakerCraft Execs Launch TDG Audio. After SpeakerCraft’s Nirv whole-house audio/video/control system was dropped this year, product manager Daniel Kippycash was left without a professional home. Recently, he co-founded The DaVinci Group (TDG) with former SpeakerCraft colleague Alex Chiou. The first line of products, in-wall speakers, will debut at CES 2013 under the TDG Audio brand. In addition, Kippycash was named executive director of the Digital Delivery Group, following the departure of David Kaplan.
Numinus Becomes Product Line under NuLEDs Brand. NuLEDs, maker of LED lighting solutions, is a start-up brand of Numinus, most popular for its fiber-optic ceiling lights. In 2012, the NuLEDS brand being the headliner, with Numinus a sub-brand. Most notably, two former Niles Audio presidents joined the group—Frank Sterns as CEO and Mike “Sparky” Detmer as VP sales.
Audio America Launches Feedback AV. Audio America, a distributor in the PowerHouse Alliance, has launched Feedback AV, developer of high-margin cables, mounts and racks. Two industry veterans from Niles Audio—Mike Detmer, former president, and Al Burdett, former marketing exec—have joined the company as advisors.