Gibson to Close Memphis Factory

Written by Bill Leebens

Regular readers of Copper, and especially of Industry Newshave no doubt noticed that Ye Increasingly-Olde Editor has an obsessive streak big enough to be seen from space. I credit this to three things: growing up in a household of relentless newspaper folk, being a journalism student in the era right after Watergate, and the tendency innate to every Gemini: always forgive, but never forget.

I mention this as explanation for yet another Industry News piece on Gibson Brands. The company is significant to musicians and audiophiles alike: in addition to manufacturing iconic guitars, the holding company had significant shares in audio companies including Onkyo, Pioneer, TEAC, Esoteric, Cerwin-Vega, and Stanton amongst many others. The bewildering array of companies owned by Gibson can be seen in this chart that was part of the company’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing back in May.

Describing all the fallout of the Gibson bankruptcy would likely require a book, but one major outcome in the audio realm has been Onkyo’s loss of its reciprocal investment in Gibson, which precipitated the subsequent sale of its subsidiary unit, Pioneer Onkyo Europe (POE). Gibson still retains Cerwin-Vega, Stanton, and KRK monitors, but most of its other holdings in consumer audio companies are gone. Full details of Gibson’s reorganization can be found in the 230-page (!) joint reorganization plan submitted in October, and approved by the Federal Bankruptcy court in November.

At this point, what remains to be said about this whole tangled mess? Well, this: Gibson had previously said that the factory located on Beale Street in Memphis would be downsized and moved to a smaller (read: cheaper) facility in Memphis. It now appears that Memphis production of semi-hollowbody guitars will be shut down completely, moved to the main factory four hours east on I-40, in Nashville.

As one who lived in Memphis for 25 years, I can vouch for the longstanding, bitter rivalry between the two cities. Memphians mock the Bible-publishing and insurance heritage of Nashville, and Nashvillians view Memphis as a crude river town with scary music. I can’t imagine that Memphians will view Gibson’s departure as anything but the latest insult from the more-affluent city.

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