Marshall Amplification, the 60-year-old company that’s produced iconic guitar amps used by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Slash, and Kurt Cobain, is being acquired by Zound Industries, the Swedish company that’s previously licensed the Marshall brand for its headphones and speakers. Exact financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the resulting company will be the privately owned Marshall Group. The Marshall family will serve as its largest shareholder with a 24 percent stake.
Jeremy de Maillard, who currently serves as Zound’s CEO and who will be CEO of Marshall Group going forward, said in an interview with The Verge that the deal is as much about acquiring Marshall’s engineering expertise as it is about acquiring the brand name. “The way I like to think about it is that Zound has been making products to listen to music, and Marshall has been making products to make music or to play music,” de Maillard says, calling them “very complementary businesses.”
“We haven’t done a single product from Zound that hasn’t been approved by the acoustic engineer at Marshall Amps.”
In the immediate future, the CEO doesn’t expect much to change for either company. All of Marshall Amplification’s brands and subsidiaries — including Natal Drums, Marshall Records, and Marshall Live Agency — are included as part of the deal, and the CEO says they’re “100 percent committed” to both the company’s existing UK-based premium amp manufacturing facility and their factory in Vietnam.
Victoria Marshall, who was Marshall CEO from 2002 to 2008, and Terry Marshall, who built the first Marshall amplifier with his father, Jim Marshall, in 1962, will sit on the board of the Marshall Group to help guide the company’s high-level strategy.
There also won’t be any immediate changes to how Zound’s headphones and Bluetooth speakers are developed. “We’ve already been working in close collaboration for the past 12 years,” de Maillard tells me. “We haven’t done a single product from Zound that hasn’t been approved by the acoustic engineer at Marshall Amps… It’s a complete continuation of what we do, except now we’re one and the same.”
“Since my father and I created the original Marshall amp back in 1962, we have always looked for ways to deliver the pioneering Marshall sound to music lovers of all backgrounds and music tastes across the world - and I’m confident that the Marshall Group will elevate this mission and spur the love for the Marshall brand,” Terry Marshall said in a statement.
“Having worked alongside my father during his later years, I know he would be excited at this direction and the potential to reach a larger worldwide audience,” added Victoria Marshall.
Although the Zound name is disappearing in favor of Marshall, the Swedish company doesn’t plan to abandon its other product lines like Urbanears. But de Maillard tells me that Marshall-branded items represent over 90 percent of Zound’s existing sales, so it makes sense to double down on the brand.
In the long term, de Maillard says he hopes the merger will help speed up development, help them approach their product range “more holistically,” and ultimately share the manufacturing and product development knowledge gained from working across two very different industries. “What we are buying is basically the ability to make one entity greater than the sum of its parts,” de Maillard says. But he adds that “nothing has been decided” about the newly formed company’s long-term goals.
When Zound first started licensing the Marshall name back in 2010, it was an unknown startup that had only started shipping products the previous year. It was the iconic Marshall brand that helped put it on the map. But now, over a decade later, de Maillard suspects that Zound’s Marshall-branded speakers and headphones may be the ones helping to promote Marshall’s guitar amps.
“We brought the Marshall brand to over 90 countries through the headphones and the speakers. So it became a much more known brand by the masses than it was before,” de Maillard claims. “Before it was the in-the-know, the musicians, people who were really into music who knew about the brand. But through this partnership, we’ve managed to touch a lot more people.”
“I don’t have the number, but I’m pretty sure that drove a lot of people to start playing guitar as well,” he says.