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News April 3, 2018

Gibson CEO says he blames himself for the company’s current status

Gibson CEO says he blames himself for the company’s current status
Image: Christopher Berkey/LA Times

Over the last couple of months, music fans have been fearful of seeing one of music’s most respected names call it quits, with guitar manufacturing company Gibson facing bankruptcy.

The news first came to light back in February when the Nashville Post reported that the 116-year-old company could be “running out of time.” A press release from the company indicated that they’re in the process of refining their focus, with hopes of “eliminating product segments that do not perform to our expectations,” but industry insiders haven’t been feeling too hopeful.

Just a couple of weeks ago it was reported that financial house Standard & Poor had lowered the company’s credit rating from a ‘CCC-‘ from ‘CCC’ meaning the company “could default on its debt obligations over the next six months” with “little prospect for recovery.” Now, in a new interview, CEO Henry Juszkiewicz has shouldered the blame for the decisions leading to the company’s current status.

Speaking to The New York Times, Juszkiewicz admitted that his decision to try and turn Gibson into a “music lifestyle company” by selling high-end audio equipment in addition to their regular catalogue of guitars had effectively backfired.

“No, it wasn’t a great decision,” Henry Juszkiewicz confessed. “It didn’t work out very well. I think it was a rational decision, but it turned out to be a very poor decision, and it’s a decision I made. It is what it is.”

The New York Times notes that Juszkiewicz first came on board with Gibson back in 1986, then on the verge of bankruptcy, when he and a group of investors bought the company. Over the years, the company experimented with new technology in the instruments in order to make them more contemporary and appealing to a younger musical generation, but it seems that many of these attempts have failed.

“It is accurate to say bankruptcy is a possibility in the sense that our bonds expire,” Juszkiewicz said, noting that while Gibson are in talks of refinancing, the bondholders that are owed money aren’t terribly focused on being repaid. “They are more interested in owning the company,” he said. “That’s an ownership play.”

While Gibson’s future will become clear on August 1st, when much of their debt is due, Juszkiewicz concedes that if he wishes for his long-terms plans for the company to continue, he will “have to pass the baton to someone who also has that dream.”

“Part of this is evaluating financing options, and I have to look at what is best for the company, all of the stakeholders and myself.”

This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.

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