M&K: End of Story
Sure enough, when I went there, the page had little more than the following message: "As of Thursday, Feb 22, the M&K Factory is closed. For more information regarding Ken Kreisel's recent decision to close the M&K Chatsworth factory after 34 years, please email Ken Kreisel directly."
Having spent some extremely pleasant hours interviewing Kreisel in 1997, I emailed him, asking what was going on.
In response, he sent me a link to an article about Willy Wonka and a phone number where I could reach him the following day. I know homework when I see it, so I read Kerri Price's article about intellectual property and the lessons Roald Dahl's classic could teach modern capitalists. In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Wonka was a confectionary genius entrepreneur, whose success was threatened when his competitors attempted to obtain his trade secrets by suborning his employees, Price explained. Wonka outfoxed them by firing all his workers and hiring Oompa-Loompas, creatures who gave him their complete loyalty for having saved them from monsters. Price sees the tale as a parable for the contemporary intellectual property battlefront.
When I got through to Kreisel, he was quite matter of fact about M&K's demise. "We filed Chapter 7 [bankruptcy] this week and that's it—the company is closed. End of story.
"Some of the stuff I can't talk about because of on-going litigation that's been going on for a few months . . . against some bad guys."
"I can make some guesses, based on the Willie Wonka article you sent me," I said.
"Right, that was a clue—there's counterfeit stuff out there. We know it has surfaced in China and the UK. One product that we know is out there, and is phony, is an MP150 in high-gloss black. We never built that. Somebody emailed me from the UK, having bought three of them—one of them had a dead short in the crossover and he wanted me to know he thought the quality control was terrible. When I got in touch with him, it turned out to be a product we had never made! We have unconfirmed reports that several Internet sites have offered them in the US, but we haven't heard from anybody who has purchased them here."
I asked, "Do you want to hear about any counterfeit M&K components our readers may have encountered?"
"Absolutely! If anybody suspects they have purchased counterfeit M&K products, they should email me at firstname.lastname@example.org."
I asked, "Do you have any plans, now that you've shuttered M&K?"
"I can't talk about my future plans right now, but I want to thank all of the people who have been emailing me and wishing me the best of luck. There has been an inspiring outpouring of support, including from folks who have received counterfeit product. I hope that I won't disappoint anyone with what I do in the future.
"My passion and love is loudspeakers, and it has been since I was 9 years old. I plan to continue pursuing that passion."
After I concluded my interview with Kreisel, I revisited the M&K website, which now has the following amplification to the factory closing announcement:
"WARNING TO M&K CUSTOMERS WORLDWIDE
"We have recently discovered counterfeit product being sold internationally under the Miller & Kreisel Sound (M&K) name and trademark, probably manufactured in China, possibly shipped through the USA. This product may appear to be nearly identical to legitimate product, but its quality and performance in all likelihood does not meet M&K standards and has not been subject to M&K's legendary quality control process.
"Some counterfeit product has been reported as totally non-functional with shorted inputs.
"Beware of the MP-150 in the painted high-gloss finish. No legitimate MP-150s have been produced in this finish. M&K-built MP-150s have cabinets painted in the standard M&K textured matte finish used on the S-150.
"If you suspect you have bought counterfeit product like this, we would like to hear from you. Please include Model and Serial Numbers, where and when it was bought, including country. Please email that info to Ken Kreisel."