The British family-owned company behind Marshall amplifiers, which have appeared on stage beside musicians from Jimi Hendrix to Jay-Z, is selling to a Swedish maker of Bluetooth speakers, in a deal valuing the combined group at more than $400mn.
Marshall Amplification has agreed to a takeover by Stockholm-based Zound Industries, which makes wireless speakers and headphones. The Marshall family will become the largest shareholder with a 24 per cent stake in the company, which will be rebranded as Marshall Group, in addition to receiving an undisclosed cash payment.
Zound has been producing headphones and consumer speakers carrying the distinctive Marshall signature logo and textured black vinyl since the two companies struck a licensing deal in 2010. It also makes personal audio devices under the Adidas and Urbanears brands.
Jim Marshall, who died in 2012, founded the eponymous company in west London alongside his son Terry in 1962. They sold their first amps to young musicians such as The Who guitarist Pete Townshend. In 1967, production moved to Bletchley, close to Milton Keynes, where the company still has its headquarters.
Zound was founded in 2008, aiming to be a more fashionable alternative to audio brands such as Bose, JBL or Sony. It grew alongside the smartphone market and the rise of music streaming apps such as Spotify and Apple Music.
“The [Marshall] family feels that bringing together two successful, internationally recognised companies sets the stage for the Marshall name to move to another level,” said Terry and Victoria Marshall, Jim’s heirs, who will join the board. They added the deal would “preserve the legacy of the brand and take our name to even more music lovers around the globe”.
In 2020, Zound abandoned plans for a potential stock market listing and was forced to cut staff, amid lower than expected sales and pandemic-related supply challenges. However, growth rebounded in 2021, with net sales rising by a further 44 per cent to SKr3.1bn ($300mn) in 2022.
Marshall’s most recent filings to the UK’s Companies House registry show that turnover increased by about 4 per cent to £36.4mn in 2021, with pre-tax profits of £5.7mn. It also owns Natal drums, a record label and recording studio, all of which will become part of the new group.
Combined revenues for newly created Marshall Group would have been more than $360mn over the past 12 months, the companies said.
Marshall will continue to build its top-end “hand wired” amplifiers in Bletchley following the deal, while production of its other products will remain at a fully-owned factory in Vietnam. Zound’s devices are primarily manufactured in China.
Jeremy de Maillard, Zound’s chief executive, sought to reassure Marshall’s fans — who include Eric Clapton, Guns ’N Roses guitarist Slash and Blur’s Graham Coxon — that the tech start-up would be a safe custodian of its “signature sound”.
“We’ve always made sure that the acoustic department at Marshall was satisfied with the quality of the products created by Zound for the past 12 years,” he said.
De Maillard added that by bringing the full product range under one roof, it would enable the group to “have faster innovation and a deeper connection with musicians and music lovers”.