Multiple sources are telling us that on Friday, October 6th, the Montreal headquarters of Classé will close their doors for the last time and all remaining employees will be let go. This includes the dismissal of Classé President Dave Nauber, who has been with the company since 2002. Classé is part of the B&W Group, which itself is going through a major restructuring in the wake of the dismissal of President Doug Henderson as we reported to you back in July.
See more on what we’ve learned about the situation at Classé…
According to our sources, a recently percolating deal to purchase Classé from B&W fell through, leading the company to decide to shut the doors on October 6th. Getting information from Bowers and Wilkins is about as easy as giving a Bengal tiger a dental exam, as the company has been very tight-lipped about their plans. However, sources have come forward to paint a picture of radical transformation of B&W’s historically significant brands.
We have learned that the company has ceased manufacturing all of the Classé lines, and is sitting on significant inventory of certain models. However, the company may push the button on a small additional manufacturing run of select models in order to better balance out their inventory to help make their remaining stock more saleable. Beyond that, there are no plans for future manufacturing.
A Small Additional Manufacturing Run…Then Done
In late July, the company sent a letter to dealers assuring them that the company will continue to offer “full service, warranty and support” for Classé models. And although this letter made a reference to “potential” future manufacturing – this was based on the need to “fulfill any additional demand in the market as needed.” This last phrase may in fact be a reference to that small additional run of manufacturing we mentioned above.
That letter to dealers, crafted by new Chief Revenue Officer Richard Campbell, also informed dealers that in reviewing their new product roadmap, they have decided “not to pursue developments” for future planned replacement models that were sorely needed to refresh the Classé brand. Our sources have confirmed all development work has been dropped.
B&W Staff Takes Over Classé Support Functions
This ongoing service and support for the Classé products will be handled through the B&W infrastructure – North America will be handled out of the B&W New England offices, the European market will be the responsibility of B&W in the U.K., and Asia will be handled by the B&W folks in Hong Kong.
The company is said to be sitting on some millions of dollars worth of what are now useless parts, some of which will likely be returned to suppliers. But much of these parts are not returnable and will need to be destroyed or otherwise scrapped at a total loss.
Not a Surprise…A Sucker Punch
Our sources told us that the decision to shut Classé came as more than a huge surprise – a sucker punch really. The company had just come through a major restructuring in March, a painful one that included layoffs and significant changes to plans and process. At the end of that restructuring, Classé had assurances from management that they would move forward on this newly reorganized basis. Then, seemingly out of the blue, the plug was pulled.
Why would you spend the time, effort and money to restructure, if you’re just going to shut it down anyway, one source asked us rhetorically. That is a question to which we will likely never get an answer.
In the meantime, the company’s remaining handful of employees in Montreal, really just a skeletal crew these days, find themselves left to wind operations down, turn out the lights, and lock the doors for the last time.
We reached out to the company for comment on this story but did not receive a response by the time this post was published.
Learn more about Classé at: www.classeaudio.com.