NHT Acquired by Vinci Group

Like many specialty audio companies, NHT has had its ups and downs. The Benicia, CA–based loudspeaker manufacturer, founded by Ken Kantor and Chris Byrne in 1986, was sold to Jensen International in the early 1990s, sold again to accesssories perveyor Recoton, and then acquired (and some would suggest saved) by Rockford Corporation towards the end of 2002.

With the Rockford deal, the company was again on solid financial footing leading to another round of innovative product development. Through it all, NHT earned a well-deserved reputation for affordable high-performance products, among them legendary mini-monitors, such as the Super Zero and Super One, as well as its full-range Model 3.3 and most recently the Evolution T6 reviewed by John Atkinson back in April.

But after three years, NHT's next move is now afoot: It was revealed last week that Rockford has sold the brand to be incorporated in the state of Colorado and operated as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Vinci Group.

NHT joins Vinci Labs, also managed and owned by the Vinci Group. Vinci Labs designs and manufactures audio and video products for a wide range of "prominent consumer electronics brands" and was formed in 2004 when a private consortium based in Boulder, CO acquired Flextronics Design and renamed it. Vinci Labs is now managed by Kimmo Salmi and Esa Piirila of the Vinci Group and is based in Tampere, Finland, with sales, marketing, and product support located in Boulder and with additional staff and facilities in both Thailand and Singapore.

According to NHT, it will continue to manage its operations from its facility in California with most of the same team that has been with the brand since its inception. While Chris Byrne retains his role as Managing Director, a round of executive musical chairs has ensued: Andy Regan, currently Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Vinci Labs, will assume the position of Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Vinci Group, encompassing both Vinci Labs and NHT. John Johnsen moves from NHT's Director of Sales to Vice President, Brand Marketing, and Jack Hidley moves from his role as NHT's Director of Engineering to Vice President of Engineering, NHT.

Byrne says the rest of the current management team and employees will remain with NHT, while acoustical engineering will be augmented immediately. Finance and operations will be run out of Benicia for the first time since the mid-'90s.

Explaining how the deal came together, Byrne says that Andy Regan, the VP Sales & Marketing for Vinci Labs, visited NHT in the late spring of this year. "Vinci had been looking for the 'right' brand for some time," notes Byrne, and "NHT obviously was looking for a home. The direction in which the NHT group wanted to take the brand, and Vinci's vision for a consumer effort, are very similar. It's serendipity."

Byrne adds that "Our focus on the specialty audio and custom installation businesses remains our primary market, along with growing our share of the professional audio market. I fully expect the time it takes to bring new products to market will improve dramatically with the additional resources provided by Vinci."

"The investment group behind Vinci Labs believes there is considerable opportunity in the Consumer Electronics space," says Byrne. "NHT has an excellent brand reputation, despite the obstacles it has encountered over the last 5 years. The brand has remained true to its original principals of creating innovative, high-performance, affordable audio products. At the same time, NHT has never locked itself into a specific part of the market, which provides opportunity for growth in a variety of important audio categories.

"We believe that the loudspeaker market is changing dramatically. Technologies like Xd [NHT's powered Xd speaker system, which features a digital-domain crossover and switching power amps, is very favorably reviewed in the current (November) issue of Stereophile—Ed] have shown us a direction for the future that includes amplification and signal processing that we believe will ultimately affect loudspeakers over a wide range of price-points and applications. With the substantial resources Vinci brings to NHT, we are in a great position for growth."