Swan Song for Thiel: Total Liquidation Has Begun

Thiel TM3 in the auction

The long sad saga of Thiel is just about over for good. Having entered bankruptcy in October 2018, an auction house has finally been selected and started the process of liquidating all that remains of the former Nashville, Tenn-based Thiel…including Thiel Loudspeakers, Aurora by Thiel wireless music systems, and detritus from the Aurora Studio live streaming music studio.

Hot deal – cold brand: The Thiel liquidation…

It is, to say the least, an ignominious end to a once revered and to many a glorious high-end line of loudspeakers. But with a changing market, the death of one of the founders and leading engineer, the sale of the company to private equity…coupled with revolving multiple management teams…the brand seems to have landed with a thud, teetering on the edge of the trash heap of history.

McLemore Auction Company is auctioning off all that remains of the company including: office supplies, studio equipment, musically-themed furnishings & decorations…AND speakers – lots and lots of speakers. In Aurora speakers alone, there are more than a 1,000 pair available (1,100 to be exact.)

Not Just Aurora, Lots of Thiel Speakers As Well

Also included in this liquidation auction are many of their updated series of Thiel-branded bookshelf and floorstanding models including the TT1 and TM3 speakers which originally sold for $5,798 and $3,000 respectively. The auctioneer notes that many of the items are being offered with no reserve – opening the door to “a lot of people” getting “some great deals on equipment they may not have been able to afford before,” according to McLemore Auction Company President Will McLemore.

Thiel TT1 in liquidation auction
A pair of Thiel TT1s – starting bid on one set was only $55 (as of mid-day Wednesday)

In looking over the wide assortment of items, you find everything from a dainty vanity seat and stylist chair…to a box full of various surge protectors, assorted desktop telephones, and a big box with an “assortment of office supplies”…to several different speaker and subwoofer component parts…to spotlights and stage lights used in the Aurora studio…to cables, headphones, microphones…and even a 40-input digital mixing board. But mostly, lots and lots of speakers.

An Extensive List of…Stuff

The list of available items is extensive, and many of them are presented in multiple-item lots – for example, the Aurora by Thiel Tour speakers must be bid on in a lot of four. Yet many have no bids on them yet…literally waiting for the first bid of a dollar or five dollars.

The auction opened on May 20th and runs to June 20th, so there is plenty of time to get in on the action. Items have to picked up in Nashville, or you can otherwise arrange to have them picked up and shipped, but such arrangements must be made in advance. Some of the items shown have been listed in parallel on eBay.

Island of Misfit Toys – Mis-Matched Pairs, Partially or Completely Empty Speaker Cabinets

It is interesting to see the items that have drawn a substantial number of bids…and which have none. This is understandable with some unique items, such as partially finished speakers that may have some drivers but are missing one or more others. And there are some mis-matched pairs, where each item has a different finish.

A pair of TM3s with mis-matched finishes
A pair of TM3s with mis-matched finishes. As of this writing, the bid is at $19 for this set.

Interestingly, many of the items up for bid have been put in a special class where the auctioneer has designated them for an automatic extension of their specific auction if they receive the winning bid in the last five minutes of the auction. They call these items part of a “soft close” group. Otherwise, the auction has a hard close of June 20, 2019.

What Took Thiel Down?

Strata-gee has followed the Thiel story closely for a number of years, especially in the wake of their purchase in 2012 by Tennessee private equity investor David B. Griffin. At first, Griffin brought in industry experts Bob Brown and Stephen DeFuria, a move that seemed reasonably calculated to chart a new perhaps more positive course for the brand. But within only a little more than a year, both Brown and DeFuria were out and a seemingly endless revolving door of managers began to spin.

By the time it was over, there were at least five different CEOs and management teams between 2012 – 2018, when they finally threw in the towel and closed it down – filing for Chapter 7 (liquidation) bankruptcy. The turmoil, with changing CEOs and strategies was just too much for the company to make headway in a challenging market.

See the auction here: www.mclemoreauction.com.


Swan Song for Thiel: Total Liquidation Has Begun — 5 Comments

  1. What a sad end for Jim Thiel’s legacy :.(
    It is too bad that the acquirers clearly did not fully understand and did not have the time or patience. As you reported Ted, there were too many directions and initiatives without really addressing the audience Thiel itself had built.
    RIP Jim Thiel, a true audio legend. Peace to you and all the team. I am sure these vintage models will remain well loved.

  2. I don’t think any of the items have been listed on ebay. They’ve linked to ebay auctions of same/similar items to give bidders an idea of items’ worth. I think this is the dumpster fire of a lifetime. I haven’t heard it but I suspect the TT1 is a great product. The Stereophile review hinted at it. Mark Mason is probably a great designer. Thiel management priced it too high. People who want the best sound for the money have a rare opportunity here.

  3. “ landed with a thud, teetering on the edge of the trash heap of history”. Classic and so true

  4. This highlights the importance of having a solid succession plan in place, or a plan to wind down the business upon the death of the founder. Some of the people I knew at Thiel were good individuals making a genuine effort.

    • While, in general, I would agree with you in the thought that CEO succession is something that all companies should seek to prepare for. However, in this case, that would have been extraordinarily difficult given the fact that Jim Thiel was also the chief engineer who’s creative insights and philosophies informed his technological direction. In this instance, it would be nearly impossible to find another engineer in total lockstep with Jim Thiel’s thinking who could simply step into that role.

      I also think it important to recognize that the issues raised by his passing were not, in and of themselves, what drove the company down. I think the dramatic change in the industry, the decline of the specialty segment and more all contributed to the decline and fall of Thiel.

      And I certainly agree with you that there were many very talented people who worked hard every day on behalf of the company. Unfortunately, multiple variables came into play that diverted their path to an unhappy conclusion.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


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