Harman Merges JBL, Infinity Home On W'Wide Basis

By Joseph Palenchar On Oct 14 2002 - 6:00am

Harman International merged its worldwide JBL and Infinity home-speaker operations into a single division in July to create a global product line for each brand, the company said.

The new JBL-Infinity division, called the Harman Loudspeaker Group, is headed by president Paul Bente, who was president of JBL Consumer Products for the Americas. He will oversee the two home brands worldwide.

JBL and Infinity branded car speakers continue to be part of a separate mobile products group.

The consolidation makes U.S.-based Harman Consumer Group (HCG) responsible for the first time for the worldwide R&D, sales and marketing of the two brands in home audio.

The reorganization doesn't eliminate positions in the U.S., won't change day-to-day operations and distribution in the U.S., and won't blur the two brands', Bente said.

Overseas, some positions have been eliminated, said Bente, who contended that cost-cutting is a "byproduct," not the reason, for the change. The intent, he said, is to create a global product line for each brand. "We can satisfy the world market with fewer products" based on the same platform but perhaps with different finishes that suit regional preferences, he explained.

Differences in preferred speaker sizes and type of sound don't exist from country to country, he said. At one time, Americans preferred bigger speakers than consumers in other countries, where homes are smaller, but "with the growth of multichannel sound," he said, "everyone worldwide wants small speakers."

With global products in mind, Harman has already merged its separate Europe- and U.S.-based R&D facilities into its U.S. facility in Northridge, Calif. The European facility was part of HCG International, which developed and marketed JBL and Infinity produces separately from U.S.-based HCG.

Bente also overseas engineering resources for HK speakers and Madrigal Group's Revel speakers, but he is not responsible for the sales and marketing of those brands.

HCG president Gina Harman said the recent organizational changes "will enable our various divisions to operate more efficiently and profitably." She pointed out that the JBL and Infinity operations already "shared many design, engineering and manufacturing resources."

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