NHT Acquires NHT!

When last we heard business news from NHT, it had been acquired by Vinci Labs in 2006. Today, NHT managing director Chris Byrne told Stereophile, "We are sitting down right now and signing the papers to purchase NHT, Inc. from Vinci Labs, creating NHT Audio, LLC."

What exactly does that mean? Byrne explained, "Vinci Labs was, in many ways, a good fit for us, but at heart Vinci is a venture capital company, and high-end audio is just a really different kind of market.

"Vinci purchased Crocs when it was a $10 million company and grew it rapidly into a $200 million one. Venture capitol companies need huge amounts of short-term growth, which just isn't how our part of the business has operated over the last 10 years. When you grow in the High End, you grow by small amounts each year, but when people outside our niche come in and invest money, they expect the kind of dramatic growth they have seen in other markets."

So the fit wasn't as ideal as it seemed at first? Byrne said, "It's just the reality of what large companies expect. We experienced the same disconnect when Rockford and Recoton owned us. It wasn't that we weren't doing well—in high-end terms we were doing satisfactorily. But specialized audio growth just doesn't sustain itself at double-digit growth. So when Vinci first thought about selling NHT, I wasn't sure who we would be sold to, but eventually Vinci asked the management team if we would consider acquiring the company.

"I did the numbers and talked to [NHT lifer] John Johnsen and another investor—and we realized we could make it work if we stuck to our core strengths. Eventually, all of the employees will have ownership of the brand—there will be no outside investors."

What does "core strengths" mean? "Initially, we'll be focusing on the Classic line, our architectural line, the Verve lifestyle line, and our small, but growing, pro-audio business." Byrne said. "We'll be revisiting the rest of the lines as we can start phase two. We will continue supporting all of our products—we have the technicians to repair and deal with all existing NHT products.

"We have a lot of areas where we can go in the future—strategic alliances and directions to grow—but our core is classic, affordable loudspeakers and that's what we're going to concentrate on right now."