European private equity group Astorg announced the purchase of Audiotonix, the parent company of Allen & Heath, Calrec, Digico and Digigrid, from investor group Epris. The purchase price was reportedly $254 million. Epris (formerly known as Electra Partners) acquired Allen & Heath in 2013, then acquired Calrec in 2014 and merged the companies with DiGiCo to create Audiotonix.
What’s interesting here is that it shows how vibrant the live sound portion of the business still is, especially on the high end. Of course, Audiotonix has the entire breadth of the market covered, with Allen & Heath on the low to mid market, and DiGiCo on the high end. Calrec specializes in broadcast consoles.
Although it’s great for the shareholders of Epris and Audiotonix, it’s not necessarily a good thing for the companies involved or the industry. The music business is small compared to other sectors, and private equity investors are generally looking at a way to make some quick money (as Epris just did). If the live concert business takes a downturn, these companies stand to suffer when the investor looks to stop the bleeding. Money is the king, not the products, brands, and especially not the customers.
Astorg does seem somewhat different though. It has invested in 20 companies dating back to 1999, and stayed with them through the economic downturn of 2008, which is a good sign that it’s in it for the long haul instead of to turn a quick buck. It’s currently on a spending spree as it has acquired interests in 4 companies in 2016 alone. Almost all of Astrog’s investments are outside the entertainment business, ranging from a chain of pet shops, to medical diagnosis equipment, to precious metals. It should be interesting to see how they deal with the makers of some expensive hardware in an audio business that is buying less and less of it.