As a kid, Jimmy Page’s Gibson Les Paul was the stuff of my guitar dreams. Fifteen year old me certainly couldn’t afford Jimmy’s Les Paul, but it inspired me to get my first guitar from a local pawn shop. I’ve been noodling ever since. So, it pained me to learn Gibson had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May 2018. As a fan of guitar music and Gibsons, it was unfathomable that the maker of guitars that provide the soundtrack of my and so many other’s life was in dire straights.
How did this happen? Due to falling revenue, Gibson’s former CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz, pursued diversification and acquired Philips’ audio and home entertainment business in 2014. Competing with the likes of Apple and Amazon in the home electronics business was clearly an overreach. Lastly, Gibson lost their way. Too many overpriced fancy electronics and boutique guitars. Ultimately, Gibson, saddled with $500 million in debt, simply could not get out from under this burden. With new leadership including CEO James Curleigh and majority ownership KKR, Gibson is poised to refocus on what it does best – make guitars.
Some of my Gibson guitar heros: