Harman International Industries

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Harman International Industries, Incorporated
Traded as NYSEHAR
S&P 500 Component
Industry Electronics
Founded 1980
Headquarters Stamford, Connecticut
Key people
Dinesh Paliwal
Chairman & CEO
Products audio, electronic, and infotainment systems for automotive OEM's, home and computer systems, loudspeakers and electronics for audio professionals (concert halls, stadiums, airports, recording, broadcasting, and cinema)
Brands Harman Kardon, Becker, JBL, AKG Acoustics, Lexicon, Infinity, Mark Levinson, Revel
Revenue $6 billion (2015)
$290 million (2013)
Number of employees
16600 (2014)
Website www.harman.com

Harman International Industries, Incorporated (HII) is an American audio and infotainment equipment company that designs, manufactures and markets audio equipment for automotive, home, theater and other applications — as well as electronics for audio professionals. Headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, HII maintains major operations in the Americas, Europe, as well as Asia and markets its products under more than twenty brands — prominently Harman Kardon, Becker, AKG Acoustics, JBL, Mark Levinson, Lexicon and Infinity.

HII's consumer group engineers and manufactures loudspeakers, CD and DVD players, CD recorders, amplifiers. Its professional unit makes audio equipment, such as studio monitors, amplifiers, microphones, and mixing consoles for recording studios, cinemas, touring performers, and others.

HII is an OEM provider of branded audio systems for manufacturers including Mercedes-Benz, Toyota/Lexus, BMW, Hyundai, Kia, Rolls Royce and General Motors.

Early history[edit]

Dr. Sidney Harman and Bernard Kardon founded the predecessor to Harman International, Harman Kardon, in 1953. Both Harman and Kardon were engineers by training and had worked at the Bogen Company, which was then the top manufacturer of public address systems. Their collaboration helped to create a new industry: high-fidelity audio. As early as 1954, the company simplified access to high-fidelity sound for the non technical consumer with the introduction of the world’s first true hi-fi receiver, the Festival D1000.[citation needed] This product incorporated a tuner, control unit and power amplifier in a single chassis. Four years later, Harman Kardon presented the world’s first stereo receiver.[citation needed]

Harman bought out his partner in 1956 and then expanded Harman Kardon into an audio powerhouse, according to a biography written by the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame.[2] By the mid-1970s Harman-Kardon was a powerhouse in the U.S. stereo industry. The company profited by pioneering the concept of separate components; instead of selling stereo systems as integrated units, Harman-Kardon began selling separate receivers, speakers, amplifiers, and other pieces that buyers could purchase separately and wire together to tailor their own home sound system.

Acquisitions and expansion[edit]

In the 1970s, Sidney Harman accepted an appointment in the Carter administration as undersecretary of the Department of Commerce. When Harman took office in 1976, he sold his company to conglomerate Beatrice Foods to avoid a conflict of interest. Beatrice promptly sold many portions of the company, including the original Harman Kardon division, and by 1980 only 60% of the original company remained.

After he left government in 1978,[3] he created Harman International Industries and reacquired a number of businesses he sold to Beatrice. The company continued its growth plan with a string of acquisitions throughout the 1980s that pushed Harman International's sales from about $80 million in 1981 to more than $200 million by 1986, and then to more than $500 million by 1989. Harman International went public in 1986 with a stock offering on the New York Stock Exchange. Cash from that sale was used to, among many other purchases, buy Soundcraft, a U.K. producer of professional mixing boards, in 1988 and later - Salt Lake City digital electronics producer DOD Electronics Corp. By 1990, Harman International was selling consumer audio gear under such brands as JBL, Harman Kardon, Infinity and Epicure loudspeakers, as well as professional audio systems with such brands as JBL Professional, UREI, Soundcraft, Allen & Heath, Studer, DOD, Lexicon, AKG, BSS, Orban, DBX, Quested and Turbosound (the last one now under the control of Music Group (company)[4]).

Over the years, Harman’s portfolio of brands and technologies have led the way in many significant audio innovations. Many of the company’s audio technologies have become standards in the audio industry. In addition to the Festival D1000, the company’s legendary audio industry “firsts” include the TA230 stereo receiver (1958); the first ultrawide-bandwidth amplifier, the Citation II (1959); the first cassette deck with Dolby* B noise reduction, the CAD5 (1970); and the first high-current-capability amplifier, the Citation XX (1980).

Harman International has also developed a number of proprietary technologies, which are incorporated into a number of its branded products, including Logic 7 and VMAx Virtual Theater multichannel audio processing, and EzSet automatic speaker-level calibration.

In January 2015, Harman acquired Symphony Teleca.

In January 2015, Harman acquired Red Bend Software.

Automotive systems[edit]

In 1995, Harman International moved aggressively into the automotive electronics business by acquiring Becker GmbH of Karlsbad, Germany for approximately US$60 million, winning a bidding war against Bose. Becker was formed in the late 1940s and produced some of the earliest car radios. By the 1990s, Becker was providing both aftermarket car audio systems as well as custom OEM in-dash systems to predominantly European automakers. After its acquisition, the Harman Becker Automotive Systems group, as it became known, provided automakers with both audio systems leveraging Harman's stable of consumer brands, as well as infotainment systems combining navigation, wireless connectivity, and multimedia capabilities. The automotive division grew quickly, and by the mid-2000s was Harman International's biggest business unit, contributing over US$2billion in revenues.

The company has benefited from growing demand for increasingly sophisticated information and entertainment devices (WiFi, Televisions, MP3 players, and GPS) in cars. This market is still largely in its infancy with penetration rates of less than 20% in Europe and less than 10% in the United States. However, the company's high exposure to auto manufacturers makes it subject to the cyclicality of the auto industry.

Private equity attempt[edit]

Harman International Industries was to disappear from NYSE in Q3/2007 due to a buy-out by KKR and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners.[5] However, as of mid September 2007, KKR announced they would back out of the deal. Harman shares plummeted by more than 24% that day, on the news.

Coincident with the buy-out deal, Dinesh C. Paliwal was hired as company President and CEO in July 2007. Paliwal was a veteran of the corporate turn-around. During his tenure as president of U.S. operations for ABB, the heavyweight Sweden-based automation provider, the company moved from a money-losing and siloed organization to one with double digit growth, doubled its share price in one year, and saw its bond ratings upgraded by Moody's and Standard & Poors.[6]

On July 1, 2008, Sidney Harman was succeeded by Dinesh Paliwal as Chairman of the Board.[7]



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