The 50-year-old British speaker specialist Bowers & Wilkins has been sold to a Silicon Valley start-up founded by a former Facebook executive – and it looks like a multi-room music system could be in the pipeline.

Joe Atkins, B&W's CEO and a majority stakeholder in the business, has sold the 1000-strong UK speaker company to Eva Automation. Eva was founded in 2014 by Gideon Yu, a former Facebook chief financial officer and venture capitalist, and the current co-owner of the San Francisco 49ers. Apparently Atkins and Yu met just 30 days ago.

Atkins will remain as CEO of Bowers & Wilkins and will work closely with Eva and Yu "to continue to develop B&W's position as a world-class, highly integrated AV company". Yu will become B&W's executive chairman. The deal also includes UK and US distribution of sub-brands Rotel and Classé, but Rotel remains an independently-owned Japanese company and is not itself included as part of the takeover.

Canadian high-end hi-fi company Classé is already owned by B&W so is part of the newly-formed company.

Yu and Atkins say there will be no staff cuts at B&W, and it will continue to sell its current range of products - and in time new ones - under the Bowers & Wilkins brand name. 

MORE: B&W Zeppelin Wireless review

More after the break

In a statement issued today, Yu added: “Bowers & Wilkins brings an incredible brand, experienced and well respected team and commitment to making high-end audio equipment of unmatched quality. We at Eva share their same product vision and passion for home entertainment and look forward to creating fantastic home AV experiences together as one combined company.”

According to Bloomberg, Eva Automation has raised $20m of funding but has not yet made a physical product, although it was set up to develop - among other things - a multi-room audio/video system and has been looking for a suitable audio company to partner with.

So, who is Eva Automation? The company’s website claims the company is “reimagining the audio/video experience by making products that will change how people interact and think about the home. We are passionate about home entertainment and creating easier and better ways for people to use the products they love.”

A multi-room B&W system, then? In an interview with CEPro, Yu seemed to confirm as much. “What I want for my own living room has not been created,” he said. “There’s components, like some good interfaces and really good high-end audio/video. If I could buy it, I would, but it hasn’t been created.” Watch out Sonos and Bluesound.

Yu also suggested we needn’t worry about audio quality dropping down the priority list. “You won’t see any changes whatsoever in audio quality. We plan to invest in quality. Otherwise, why would we acquire B&W? All we want to do is find a way to deliver the next level of user experience that meets the quality expectations of the B&W customer,” Yu told CEPro.

Interesting times, then. And hopefully some reasons to be positive about the future of a legendary English hi-fi company. 

B&W was founded in Sussex, England in 1966, and the company still has a factory in Worthing.

See all our B&W reviews

Comments

manicm's picture

Not surprised, anyone notice

Not surprised, anyone notice the massive b&w product placement advertising on American series Empire?

Gilboa's picture

B&W

Well that came as a surprise! B&W is one of my favourite HiFi brands and successful at it too...I thought! I hope this 'silicon valley start-up' doesn't end up destroying it! This deal makes me uneasy but I hope I'm wrong.

Tony Constantinides's picture

You got nothin to worry about mate

 

 

 

Bouba's picture

I have to say I'm also

I have to say I'm also worried; would not want to see my PM1 one day at the corner's mall. 

I have the same view as Gilboa: really hope they ain't going to ruin a 50-years old business and such a great company.

Friesiansam's picture

Oh well, how long before they

Oh well, how long before they go the same way as Tannoy's owners and move manufacturing to China?

Nomis's picture

B&W already manufacture most

B&W already manufacture most of their kit in China ...

http://www.whathifi.com/forum/hi-fi/need-opinions-chinese-made-bw-vs-english-made-bw-cm-series

I have mixed views about it. On the one hand, quality control has improved massively in China over the last couple of decades. The "Made in China" sticker is no longer an inidication of cheap tat. But on the other hand, B&W kit isn't exactly cheap commodity stuff. It's just the type of premium-value product that we're told can be made at a profit in the West. Creek are at it too; my Destiny 2 is made in China. Is it any wonder UK manufacturing is in terminal decline?

deltadel's picture

Bowers and Wilkins

Sounds like the Tannoy saga all over again..............

afs_nj's picture

Sad

I'm also very concerned. I've been a long time floor-standing customer. It's hard to imagine much positive change for the future. 

Jota180's picture

.

They WILL move production abroad.  Maybe the US but more likely China and they will profit from using cheap labour.  Companies that do this sort of thing lose my custom.

Steve Bramford's picture

Hmmmm

makes me wonder if B & W has had cash flow woes for a whlie, why couldn't they use their own R & D folks to accomplish the same, ? 

Audio_ELF's picture

Rotel is NOT part of the deal

Could you perhaps correct the article in that Rotel distribution (at least in UK and USA) is carried out by B&W Group and is therefore sold to Eva, but Rotel itself is still an independently owned company.

Andy Clough's picture

Rotel distribution

Thanks for the info Audio-ELF, I will look into this and clarify.