Gibson fighting for survival

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

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SAN FRANCISCO, United States (AFP) — World-famous guitar maker Gibson, whose instruments have been played by the likes of John Lennon and Elvis Presley, is facing serious financial problems that threaten its very existence.

The mythical company — in Nashville, Tennessee since 1894 — on Monday brought in a new financial director, Benson Woo, to try to rescue the ailing group.

Gibson Brands, which also sells audio systems for both professionals and the general public, is working with an investment bank to set up a debt refinancing plan, the company said in a statement.

The group has a US$375-million debt payment due in early August, the Nashville Post reported.

“While the musical instrument and pro audio segments have been profitable and growing, they are still below the level of success we saw several years ago,” CEO Henry Juszkiewicz said in the statement.

He said the company, as part of a broad review of its business strategy, was continuing to streamline its Philips brand consumer audio business while eliminating some underperforming products.

He said Gibson expects this strategy will lead “to the best financial results the company has seen in its history within the next year”, with full repayment of company debt “within several years.”

Gibson bought Philips, a Dutch entertainment brand, in 2014 for US$135 million.

Gibson produces one of the most prestigious guitar models in the world, the Les Paul.

Among the stars who have played Gibson instruments are the bluesman BB King, the Rolling Stone Keith Richards, and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin.

In 2016, a Gibson Dove -- a flattop, steel-string, acoustic guitar that Presley's father had given him in 1969 — sold at auction for the healthy sum of US$334,000.

A year earlier, one of Lennon's favorite guitars — he used it to compose songs like All My Loving and She Loves You — brought in an even more impressive US$2.4 million.

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