By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
New York –Infinity Lifestyle Brands, which specializes in acquiring and turning around struggling or bankrupt consumer brands, purchased worldwide rights to the Altec Lansing brand for $17.5 million at auction.
The company purchased the Polaroid and Linens ‘n Things brands in 2010, purchased the Sharper Image brand in 2009, and later sold it off, and is part of a joint venture that owns licensing rights to the Miss America brand.
Altec Lansing, founded in 1941, was most recently owned by an affiliate of Prophet Equity, which purchased the company in 2009 from Plantronics and, in 2011, moved the company to San Diego from Milford, Pa.
As it has with previous brands that it purchased, Infinity Lifestyle Brands will develop a business plan and strategy for Altec Lansing, then license the brands to various companies that will adhere to Infinity’s marketing and positioning guidelines. These include the types of retailers to be targeted, said Ike Franco, principal of Infinity Group. Infinity Lifestyle Brands is one division of Infinity Group. Another division manages real estate in 13 states.
“We handpick partners and manage how they coexist with one another,” Franco said. “We direct them and give them guidance on how to execute our vision.”
Infinity “will put together best-in-class licensees to do R&D and invest in the brand,” he continued. Infinity will also test product quality before products hit the market.
Plans are to maintain Altec’s quality level, said Joseph Bailey, VP of Brooklyn-based Priceless Imports, which brought Altec to Infinity’s attention and consulted on the purchase. Priceless owns the KLH, Audiophase, Soundbites, and other CE brands.
“We are great marketers,” Franco said. “We will build the brand’s image and awareness.” And licensees will promote the products, he added.
The Altec brand will first reappear in home audio, but the company also plans to expand the brand into other as-yet unnamed CE categories. “We see a huge opportunity to exploit the brand in various categories that they never went after,” said Franco.
Infinity will initially resurrect Altec’s core products, which include tabletop docking speakers, headphones, and PC speakers.
The company will also target the professional, car audio and high-end home audio markets in which Altec once played.
The first Altec Lansing products from licensees will appear in the second half of 2013, with the first licensees likely showing products at January’s International CES, Franco said. “Already there are some strategic players ready to sign license agreements,” he contended.
At Tuesday’s auction, Infinity gained some intellectual property, but most of Altec’s IP was sold off at a separate auction, Franco said. Infinity also did not obtain product inventory, which Prophet had earlier sold off.
Other bidders for the brand included SDI.
The Altec Lansing brand traces its history back to 1941 with the founding of Altec Corp., which became majority owned in 1962 by conglomerate LTV. Altec Corp. marketed home, car and pro audio.
In 1984, a Chapter 11 Altec Corp. was bought by another diversified company, Gulton Industries, which shut down Altec's home and car audio operations to focus on pro. Eleven months later, Mark IV bought Gulton, including Gulton's Electrovoice pro brand, and later purchased other pro brands as part of its audio group.
In 1986, car audio supplier Sparkomatic of Milford licensed the Altec Lansing name for consumer electronics, including home and car audio, from Mark IV.
Sparkomatic was renamed Altec Lansing Technologies in 1992, and in May 2000, the Milford company bought the worldwide rights for the Altec Lansing brand name, including pro audio rights, from Mark IV's successor, Telex Communications, which was not actively marketing Altec Lansing pro products at the time.
In April 2002, the Milford company relaunched Altec pro products, bringing Altec's pro and consumer products under the same roof for the first time since 1986. Altec later dropped the pro products.
In 2005, Plantronics bought Altec Lansing, but in December 2009, sold Altec to Prophet Equity.
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