If you’ve not heard, Samsung is buying Harmon International for around $8 billion, which should send shivers down the spines of JBL Pro users. The South Korean giant reportedly sees Harmon as a bridge to the connected car business and isn’t all that interested in the audio side of the business, although its saying all the right things about returning those operations to their previous strength. What’s worse is that most Harmon employees discovered the news through social media rather than communication with the company, which isn’t exactly a great way to make a first impression.
The silver lining here is that Samsung may determine that the Harmon Pro companies (which include Crown, dbx, Lexicon, AKG, Digitech, AMX, BSS, JBL Professional, Soundcraft, Studer and Martin Audio, not to mention hi-fi companies like B&W, Harmon Kardon, Mark Levinson, and Infinity) are in a small enough niche revenue-wise that it’s not interested, and spin either the entire division off, or the separate companies. On the other hand, it’s also possible that all will be folded into Samsung and these wonderful brands and products will cease to exist after a while.
Although we live in a corporate world where growth is mantra that all execs live by, the Samsung/Harmon deal doesn’t seem to be about that. Samsung has been reeling from a series of disasters product-wise that were attributed to corporate culture. Apparently in the case of both the Galaxy 7 and their washing machine, both fixes were rushed out the door rather than a thorough investigation to the cause of the problems. This acquisition puts a positive spin on the company when it so sorely needs it, but it also looks to the future as the car gets more and more sophisticated. Harmon makes most of its money from its OEM auto audio systems and has been heavily moving the connected car direction.
JBL Pro has already been fairly corporate for some time, but having new Asian overlords is another level of bureaucracy entirely. Next year’s AES should be very interesting to see if there are any changes by then.