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Richter Joins Akai’s Parent As CEO

Former Kenwood USA president Joe Richter was named CEO and president of APH USA, which is working to broaden distribution and marketing of audio and video products in North America under the Akai brand.

Richter, who was a 21-year veteran of Kenwood USA, having served as its president since 1993, left the company as a result of a restructuring effort that is to merge five U.S.-based subsidiaries on Oct. 31 to save Kenwood an estimated $1.2 million per year.

Moriyuki Tamura was named new Kenwood USA president, replacing Richter and Tom Wineland, former president of Kenwood Communications (TWICE, Oct. 14, p. 6).

Richter has more than 30 years experience in the consumer electronics industry and is a current member of the CEA board of directors. He was formerly the CEA’s Audio Division chairman and is a past executive committee member.

“By working in partnership with select retailers, we intend to be first to market with the audio and video products that consumers want,” Richter said. “Our emphasis will be on providing the latest technology at the most reasonable price with a level of service that is second to none,” Richter said.

APH (Akai Product Holdings) USA is owned, in part, by Grande Group of Hong Kong, which purchased the Akai brand four years ago. APH USA started operations last fall as an exclusive U.S. sales and distribution company for all Akai consumer electronics merchandise.

Current product lines include both curved and “PureFlat” analog direct-view CRT TVs, a pair of 54-inch rear-projection televisions in both analog and digital capabilities, home and portable audio equipment, VCRs, DVD players and TV/DVD and TV/VCR combo units.

To date, APH has followed a limited distribution strategy targeting key national volume retailers that are capable of taking direct container load shipments of products that offer both aggressive price points and fair retail margins. The company had focused on wholesale clubs as an early test to gauge market demand for the Akai brand in an unaided environment.

Long term, plans have been to expand distribution to most channels, while adding a premium product tier to compete head-on with first-tier Japanese brands.

Products are manufactured for APH at a variety of factories in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Mexico and the United States. Most of its larger televisions are Korean designed and assembled in North America.

Masukichi Akai founded the Akai brand in 1929, initially as a manufacturer of radio components. Akai first left the U.S. market in the 1980s and has had various majority equity partners since, including Semi-Tech Global, which also owned at the time the Sansui and Singer brands. Semi-Tech sold off Akai and Sansui to Grande Group about four years ago. Grande also later acquired the Nakamichi brand.

Over the years the Akai brand has also been involved in various joint ventures with Japanese prime manufacturers and OEM relationships with dominant brand share manufacturers.

Richter began his career in retail sales before spending over a decade as a manufacturer’s representative.

He will assume the overall operations and direction of Akai for the United States market, from their new headquarters in Santa Monica, California.

“Joe Richter is a welcome addition to the APH USA management team,” said Adrian Ma, managing director of Grande Holdings of Hong Kong. “Akai enjoys great market share on a global basis, and we look forward to Joe’s guidance in the implementation of our strategic plans for Akai for the United States market.”