The Trail Goes Cold & Sticky at Tivoli Audio; Company Sold to Kings of Yogurt

Tivoli logoWe learn this month that Tivoli Audio LLC’s epic saga continues, as the previous private equity company owner Summit Associates hires another private equity company Levy Capital Partners to sell it to a third private equity company Serruya Private Equity. (Notice a theme here?) Serruya says it has acquired Tivoli Audio to “serve as its flagship consumer electronics brand.” Or, in other words, as its only consumer electronics brand in a sea of yogurt flavored packaged goods brands.

See more on this new twisty turn in Tivoli’s journey…

Toronto-based Serruya is a private equity firm that, according to the company, has “a longstanding and successful history of enhancing brands.” The company says it’s brands generate over $1.5 billion in collective revenues.

As far as the Tivoli acquisition, Serruya CEO – and now Chairman of Tivoli – Michael Serruya said:

“We are thrilled to add Tivoli Audio to our family of premium consumer brands. Tivoli not only exemplifies the relevance of thoughtful design, but it is as great sounding as it looks. We see the potential to build upon Tivoli Audio’s position as an iconic global brand in the US, Europe and Asia and on the company’s reputation for bringing to market outstanding design and top-tier audio performance. SPE will focus on enhancing Tivoli’s market share by supporting the development of great new products to be sold in more locations around the globe.”

Photo of Tivoli table radio

Tivoli’s Model One table radio

History raises questions

However, looking at Serruya’s history and current stable of brands, it is not immediately obvious why they chose to acquire Tivoli – as it will be the only consumer electronics brand Serruya has ever handled. According to the company’s website, Serruya started in frozen yogurt, got very big in frozen yogurt, and went on to build a stable of related, largely frozen, packaged goods.

“The Serruya brothers made their name by building a frozen yogurt empire including the world leading chain, Yogen Früz,” the Serruya website proclaims proudly.

They didn’t stop there. According to the company history, the Serruya brothers went on to form CoolBrands International, “which became the third largest frozen dessert CPG [consumer packaged goods] manufacturer in North America after Unilever and Nestle. CoolBrands owned or held exclusive long-term licenses for a variety of brands, including Eskimo Pie, Chipwich, Weight Watchers, Godiva, Tropicana, Betty Crocker, Trix, Yoo hoo, Welch’s and others.”

From frozen to hot to nonfood

For reasons not explained, the company has apparently divested CoolBrands from their portfolio. However, it appears that from their largely frozen start, the company went on to expand into other warmer food groups, adding such brands as Blimpie (sub sandwiches), Jamba Juice, America’s Taco Shop, Kahala Coffee Traders, Pizza Fresh Take ‘N Bake, Samurai Sam’s Teriyaki Grill, and more.

Serruya Brands

Tivoli gets top center of Serruya’s portfolio – surrounded by its much colder brethren.

Also, other non-food brands have been added, such as Chip & Pepper (clothing), Things Engraved (jewelry & gifts), Wasaga Beach (real estate), Persian Acceptance Corp. (automobile financing), Wind Mobile (cellphone carrier), American Apparel (clothing, now divested), and more. After reviewing their entire extensive portfolio page, it becomes starkly obvious that the only CE holding they have now – or have ever had – is Tivoli.

Serious skepticism

Industry insiders we spoke with expressed serious skepticism that the private equity company has what it takes to be successful in consumer electronics, a business in which the have no previous experience. It is an entirely different set of  skills needed to field of selection of yogurt flavors, as compared to a diversified line of electronics.

Of course, if Serruya is ready to pump money into the company, they can certainly acquire the talent they need to get Tivoli back on a growth track. However, the company has given no indication of what their specific plans are other than the somewhat non-specific “the development of great new products.”

Learn more about Serruya Private Equity at:

See the current line of Tivoli products at:

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