Massive Layoffs at Harman Pro

Written by Bill Leebens

Back in Copper #27, we reported legal woes at Samsung  and made mention of that company’s purchase of Harman International. As is to be expected when any company is sold to a monolith like Samsung, things are changing at Harman. And the news isn’t great for employees at a number of Harman Pro facilities: 650 employees will lose their jobs.

Just to recap: Harman International was the corporate culmination of companies founded and bought by the late Sidney Harman, starting with Harman-Kardon, founded in 1953 by Harman and his partner, fellow Bogen engineer Bernard Kardon. Through the years, Harman International became a powerhouse in three areas: home audio, including brands like JBL, Mark Levinson, Revel, Infinity, and of course Harman-Kardon; pro audio, including brands like Crown, AKG, and Studer; and car audio/electronics, including brands like Becker and the auto-sound divisions of B&O, Infinity, Mark Levinson, and many others.

The home audio division of Harman, with which most audiophiles are familiar, is actually the smallest of the three sectors, averaging about 10-12% of the company’s revenues. Pro sound is roughly double that, with the remaining 60-65% coming from the automotive division. The 2016 annual report showed the company’s revenues at just under $7B; Samsung’s purchase price of Harman was reportedly $8B in cash.

Of the companies affected by layoffs, the one most familiar to audiophiles is undoubtedly Crown. Local media in Elkhart, Indiana, report that the Crown plant will shut its doors, and  115 workers will lose their jobs. An earlier layoff last year laid off 125.

As is often the case, Harman has not issued a press-release announcing the layoff. The most detailed coverage to date has appeared on the AVNetwork; the most interesting part of that coverage is the comments left by audio industry integrators and installers, who clearly have felt let down by Harman many times in the past.

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