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Is High End REALLY being sold??

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You know how the rumor mill works in this industry. In fact, if you haven’t heard a good rumor by Noon – the rumor gods suggest starting one.Well, I am not starting this one. I’ve heard it for months, even years. High End, actually, their investment partner / majority owner – Generation Partners – is pursuing any and all buyout offers.Over the past year the rumors of potential suitors have included Martin, Barco, Robe, PRG, Philips, etc. Here is my 2 cents on the deal as it relates to each of the MANUFACTURERS being discussed. Remember – I have no inside knowledge or anything, only an opinion.

Martin – We’ve all seen Martin jump into the Console market in the past several years, primarily with the Maxxyz console range. Don’t get me wrong – I still love Martin, however, they seem to have fallen short on toppling either Flying Pig (High End) or MA Lighting in the console world. Their options for a quick fix would be to buy either MA Lighting, possibly a sensible move considering the proximity of both manufacturers. Or, Martin could make a run at their longtime competitor, High End Systems. Had Peter Johansen still been involved, this might have already been done. Peter always had a healthy ego – and the opportunity to own the company who once mocked him and his beloved brand would certainly fit. From a business standpoint, what would this do? Well, Martin would instantly hold one of the most storied brands in lighting control, Flying Pig Systems, and the Hog range. Martin could immediately take over not only distribution, but the manufacturing as well, therefore increasing the already healthy margins on this console range. At the same time, Martin would be able to draw from the incredible R and D brains behind products such as DL2, Showgun, etc. I see this as a win-win deal.

Barco – This one is a little more of a stretch, however, Barco showed their hand last fall with the debut of their moving light / video projector on a yoke. The DLM-1200 is definitely a promising looking product, however, I am sure they will spend years to learn what High End already know. Plus, I am not certain, but I would assume their are some patent issues related to this light and owning High End would eliminate any possibility of a long, painful, and expensive dispute. However, I really don’t see this as a great fit. The companies come from very different worlds. Sure, there is some synergy with the Digital lighting, and the fact that Richard at high end has long pushed the company more toward Visuals, however, I just don’t really see this being the best deal for either side. What would High End gain by being owned by a large European video manufacturer? Lower projector costs in the DL2 / DL3 / Whatever? I dunno… 

Robe – I’ve ALWAYS thought this was a deal that should have been made. In fact, over a beer at one point, I told Josef at Robe to pursue the deal. This was early on when Robe was moving from OEM supplier to their own Branded products. Robe desperately needed distribution, and High End needed to drastically improve the efficiency in their manufacturing. Still today, Robe would benefit from instant US distribution, and a quality sales team capable of walking their product into top designers, rental companies, etc. Not to mention the fact that Robe also have been pursuing products in the digital world. High End could shut down their US manufacturing, and operate only a Research / Sales / Support facility – with all manufacturing moving to Robe’s state of the art Czech factory. BIGTIME win / win.  

Philips – this is a recent rumor – obviously based on the idea that they’re on a buying binge, following both the purchase of Color Kinetics, and more recently, Genlyte. This one I cannot see ever happening. Philips is obviously extremely interested in Solid State lighting. The Genlyte deal included some entertainment business’, but I think that was not really the target for Philips. I’ve been told otherwise by a high ranking Genlyte person, however I still don’t buy it. I see a couple of BIG Genlyte brands being spun off in the not too distant future, and I really don’t anticipate Philips pursuing additional entertainment brands. The big money for solid state lighting is DEFINITELY not in the entertainment world.

I am told by “them” – you know, the rumor people, that High End is currently hosting a group of people who are in the process of Due Diligence, which would say that a deal with Someone is imminent. Personally, I am happy about this. I still really appreciate the High End brand, and many of the people who remain employed by the company. I would love to see both flourish under new ownership who may be a little less restrictive, and more forward thinking.But that’s just what I think… what about you?

Author: Marcel Fairbairn

Our expert sales team, collectively, have over 50 years experience in the sound, lighting, production and music industry.

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