Third CEO Since Acquisition Three Years Ago
On Monday of this week, Thiel Audio Products, Inc. unexpectedly announced that it has hired a new CEO for the organization. This announcement appears to refer to the CEO we previously told you about back in October 2015, although the release announces his appointment retroactively, effective January 15, 2016.
See more about who Thiel’s new CEO is, and their statement about what’s next…
We honestly can say we’re not at all surprised that the company announces on March 7th, that it has hired a new CEO as of January 15th. And of course, it makes no mention of his even earlier arrival at the company back in September/October 2015. We have complained for some time about the lack of timely communications from the company.
The new CEO for Thiel is Thomas Malatesta, who most recently was the co-founder of FortressFone Technologies Company. FortressFone is the same company for which Rebecca Abrahams worked prior to joining Thiel as its Chief Brand Officer back in October.
Another Executive from FortressFone
The same announcement also noted that Rebecca Abrahams is now an Executive Producer for Thiel’s new Aurora streaming music initiative. It’s not clear if she is still Thiel’s Chief Brand Officer now or not.
A read of Malatesta’s LinkedIn page shows that he was CEO of FortressFone for more than three years. FortressFone manufactured a high-security Android mobile phone. Prior to that, Malatesta was co-founder of CyberCI, LLC – some type of cyber counter-intelligence company.
No Audio Background
We saw no direct correlation to the high-end audio business in Malatesta’s prior career. The closest he comes to a consumer business experience is a three-year stint (from 1997-2001) at Smith Corona Corp., an office products and consumer electronics products manufacturer. But even that job was a “turnaround assignment.”
In the announcement from Thiel, the company lauds his leadership experience:
“I am excited to have Tom heading up our talented senior leadership team,” said David B. Griffin, Chairman of Thiel’s Board of Directors. “His ability to drive technology trends to market and his vision of adapting products to the way people use music, reaches out to the next generation of Thiel consumers.”
A Self-Described Visionary
The company defines Malatesta as a “self-described visionary, strategist and all around out-of-the-box thinker.” Oddly, they identify him as a “former Procter & Gamble executive” although we find no signs of this on his LinkedIn page listing of his prior work experience.
Thiel also say Malatesta is a “serial entrepreneur” and he once headed his own “strategic marketing and sales support firm where he interfaced with European and Asian manufacturers to bring products to market in the U.S.” This may be a reference to the FortressFone which was likely made overseas.
Malatesta, the company says, brings “thirty plus years of problem solving experience complemented by solid business acumen and the appropriate skill sets to significantly improve the operations of the company – from new product development to manufacturing and distribution.”
A Lot of Corporate-Speak
Whew, that’s a lot of non-specific corporate-speak that speaks volumes about corporate management experience but tells us nothing of his experience in running successful high-end audio companies. The statement from the company does, on the other hand give a glimpse of what is to happen now.
Where do we go from here? “Malatesta is scouting out current and future products in audio technology ‘because the next generation of speakers is already here.'” He’s scouting out current products? The statement continues: “To do that, he is tracking consumer electronics, information technology and ‘Internet of Things’ trends and developments.”
“Malatesta is looking to build on Thiel Audio’s core strengths in high end audio and to build premium loudspeakers – speakers that reproduce sound in an emotional and sensory connection between listeners and the artists they appreciate,” the statement says. “He and his team will build the company through partnerships, by entering niche markets and hitting new demographics.”
How Long Will ‘Scouting’ Take?
There was no comment from the company about how long it expects this “scouting” will take. But based on our experience in manufacturing, once Malatesta defines a new product line, it will be somewhere between 12-24 months for products to hit the field. So it would appear we have a bit of a wait until we see what’s coming.
But one thing Malatesta is said to be excited about is Thiel Audio’s new Aurora division. Aurora is a new ultra HD streaming studio the company has built in Nashville. Physically, Aurora is a 3,500 sq.ft. “elite private venue for musicians, record label executives and industry influencers.” How does Aurora tie in with Thiel loudspeakers?
What’s Aurora For?
Originally, Aurora was conceived as a way to promote Thiel loudspeakers. We’re not sure if that is still the plan or if their strategy has somehow changed. There is no comment in their statement as to the strategic purpose of Aurora.
We now find ourselves more skeptical than ever about Thiel’s future. Thomas Malatesta is Thiel’s fourth CEO in three years (refer to our recent history of Thiel here). Notably, since the buyout by the private equity firm in 2012, the last three CEOs have had no experience whatsoever in high-end audio.
Board Strategy in Executive Hiring is Puzzling
It is impossible to ascertain the strategy of the Thiel Audio Board of Directors and Chairman David B. Griffin in their choice of CEO and staff. But, it is hard not to notice that while Malatesta may have no audio experience in his background, he does have “turnaround” experience in his work history. Could this perhaps be his real mission? We’ll just have to wait and see.
See more on Thiel at: www.thielaudio.com. (New website under construction.)