New Mystery: Has Classé Closed?

Fact? or Fiction?

Classe logoLess than a week after we reported that B&W Group President Doug Henderson had been summarily dismissed from the company he has been a key executive at for more than a decade, the rumor mill has fired up again with word that Classé has been closed down. Classé, like B&W Loudspeakers, is owned and distributed by B&W Group Ltd., a company recently acquired by EVA Automation. Multiple sources are suggesting that EVA owner Gideon Yu has decided to cease operations at the high end manufacturer of audio electronics.

See what we found out from B&W Group about Classé…



We have heard from multiple sources over the last few days that Classé has dismissed all employees (except a skeletal shutdown crew) and operations have been ceased. The news is grinding through the rumor mill all across the country and causing great consternation among their high-end specialty dealer base, some of whom are expressing shock at the abruptness of the move.

However, there has been no official announcement out of B&W Group headquarters as to the status of Classé. We reached out to the company’s press contacts to find out just what the situation was with Classé – was it still in operation? Has there been any change in status?

Statement from B&W Group about Classé

We were told the following, which sounded very much as if it was being read from a piece of paper, word-for-word:

“Thank you for your inquiry. It is Bowers & Wilkins policy not to comment on rumors or speculation.”Classe CP-800

We have asked repeatedly for an interview with any executive associated with B&W Group, as the company is clearly going through significant changes. However, the company is refusing to grant interviews with any of the industry media.

Dealers Left Hanging



So Classé dealers are left hanging…wondering. We will continue to try and get some kind of confirmation or any statement out of B&W Group and update this report if successful.

Visit Classé at: www.classeaudio.com.



Comments

New Mystery: Has Classé Closed? — 24 Comments

  1. Sadly, this does not seem surprising. The avowed aims of EVA was to take the group into the new era if you will. However, this simply focuses on the growing gap between the type of audio the mass and majority of the market is buying and what audiophiles and the luxury markets have focused on. Without going into the reasons and issues behind this, it is quite easy to see and therefore not surprising that the investor has grown “frustrated” as the core businesses of the group are not aimed at the growth opportunity. Again, with arguing for or against what direction companies should take I see and have seen investors focusing not on legacy but on growth so I expect more of these changes and events. As you have so well covered the developments at Thiel and while I do not compare these firms there is a lot of similarity of issues don’t you think?

    • Robert,

      Yes, there are definitely echoes of the Thiel situation in this one. And while the end of that story is not yet written, it does not seem to be going in the right direction.

      Thanks for your comment!

      Ted

  2. This frankly should surprise no one. Mr Wu, like ALL of his Silicon Valley inventor/vencap colleagues is only concerned with ROI, and cash flow- boatloads of 299$ cheap PRC crap means cash flow 2 10K amplifiers a month does not. Given that NO ONE at EVA has any experience with or in this high end audio world- why is anyone even remotely being shocked by their actions. The pattern is ingrained in that community and has been for decades. The tiny little world of High End audio and its ‘small mountain village’ worth of inhabitants do not even register on their fiscal radar, so why should they care- in that world only $ matter anything else is irrelevant!

  3. PS – Their refusal to make anyone available to comment or be interviewed is also classic Silicon Valley PR mindset- – we the audio community are not worthy of any direct response and their big bucks CEO’s, CFO. CRO’s ( see Ted’s column on B&W) are not wont to even recognize a request from some non NY Times or similar news organization. Even those people don’t get much- the wall of silence is the wall of safety. They own it, therefore they owe NO ONE an explanation and they have no intention of providing one.

  4. During the brief period of EVA’s stewardship of Bowers & Wilkins, they’ve done a remarkable job of dissipating the goodwill developed by many dedicated professionals like Doug & Lucette over many years.

    I am truly sorry to see this happen, and as I’m sure is the case with everyone in our biz, I really hoped for a better outcome following the sale.

    • Unfortunately, Mr. Leebens, those who were hoping for a better outcome didn’t due their homework on the buyer, or the culture they represent. The whole Silicon Valley money club is based around a short term focus on ROI and profits, and nothing else. Anyone who expected a company deeply steeped in that mindset to do anything but precisely what they have done is simply deluding themselves. This is just the start of a much larger longer term “re-structuring”and please expect much much more of precisely what you have seen so far.

      • Mr. Ampel, I appreciate that.

        I try to restrict my printed comments to statements unlikely to provoke litigation. It’s boring, but I stay out of depositions and courtrooms that way.

        • Understood and respected. However the truth is the truth and the track record is the track record so I’m not concerned about litigation since I make no accusations statements that are not “in evidence”already. Unfortunately the results speak for them selves, both now and in the future-the specialist manufacturers who get absorbed”or acquired rarely come out the other-side whole or with the same mindset, especially if the founders are no longer in control.

  5. Joe Atkins would have never let this happen….but he is gone and he was the soul of it all. I did business with Joe for many years and he was and is a great businessman and leader. No Joe no business.

  6. While I have a lot of affection for our high end brands, and a lot of respect for Classe products, imagine yourself taking a hard look at this niche from the outside in. It wouldn’t take long to conclude are too many brands and products trying to reach too few luxury customers. B&W is a special case; lots of global brand value and a diverse product line; I hope the new owners don’t screw this up. But how many outstanding high end audio brands have we seen come and go already, even before Silicon Valley got into the act? These products are an artisanal labor of love. In SV, that’s okay for taco trucks.

    • Well said Mr. Goldberg, and precisely the point I was trying to make- in SV the kind of structure, operations, business culture and all the rest that go with/into High end boutique audio are an anathema- they don’t fit the business culture or concepts, and more importantly they are cost intensive and revenue light by SV standards- not a good combination for long term survival.

  7. And- It is crucial for anyone who is looking at this situation to that the SV culture, especially from the money side is totally focused on selling millions of something- like Iphones, or Play-stations, or Surface computers, etc. It is definitively NOT focused on, aware of, or comfortable with selling 50 of something that has a net-net profit margin of 20% or less on an annual basis- the idea of labor of love or passion for a product are not even optional though processes for that group of management- so people may hope they don’t screw up B&W but I’m not sure there is much solid ground to stand that hope upon.

  8. The new owners have bought themselves a dealer network because they want to design and sell Integration solutions. There was no interest in Classe, so putting them out of their misery was probably a good idea. I don’t think the new owner would buy a company just to kill it. Will they move away from the one thing they used to do very well (design and build speakers)? Who knows. Point is, since 2008, B&W was gearing up for this move. The expansion into Best Buy in particular. The move that saved them when so many others were going under, along with unrelenting expansion, has brought them to where they are now. I don’t think that any of the key players are surprised by any of this. I for one wouldn’t bet against B&W regardless of their new leadership. Something tells me they’re heading in a profitable direction.

  9. I read this on another forum (AVS)

    ” Contrary to rumors, Classé has not closed. I’m not sure how they started, and I apologize for any confusion they may have caused.
    We have stopped development on the Delta Series to ensure that the products deliver the experience people have come to expect from Classé Audio and Bowers & Wilkins. We will continue to sell Sigma Series products, and our customer service and support have not been effected. Please let me know if you have any questions.

    Regards,

    Patrick Butler
    B&W Group North America “

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