Former Gibson employees share story of guitar company’s financial fall

(Fox 17 News)

The most iconic guitar company in the world, Gibson Brands LLC, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Tuesday.

Gibson is based in Nashville, and the guitar maker has faced debt for years.

Gibson guitars are everywhere. The most well-known artists have played Gibsons, and it’s not difficult to find musicians playing Gibsons in all the honky tonks on lower Broadway.

Former Gibson employees gave Fox 17 News insight into how this powerhouse guitar company managed to hit rock bottom after more than 100 years in business.

Walter Carter owns Carter Vintage Guitars in Nashville. Carter is also Gibson’s former editorial director and wrote the book ‘Gibson Guitars 100 Years of An American Icon.’

“It's one of the strongest brands in any field,” Carter said.

But the most premier guitar builder in the world has struggled with financial problems and just filed for bankruptcy.

Pat Foley worked 22 years as Gibson’s director of entertainment relations.

“For the years I worked with top artists, the Pages and Claptons and people like that,” Foley said. “I never would have even an opportunity if I wasn't representing such a great brand.”

Foley reported directly to CEO and Chairman Henry Juszkiewicz and said he believes Juszkiewicz tried to expand too quickly at the wrong time and bought too many struggling companies.

“Gibson wanted to be a global lifestyle brand rather than the greatest guitar company in the world,” Foley said.

Steve Christmas worked in Gibson’s custom division for 20.5 years.

“Gibson Custom Division made the most cash, and with that money was spent with these companies in consumer electronics in trying to expand,” Christmas said.

Christmas saw that as a problem since the company was getting to far from their core products, guitars, and instead tried to sell things like speakers, headphones and DJ products.

“I never thought that we could compete in other realms with consumer electronics because that changes constantly every year,” Christmas said. “Guitars are pretty much the same. They've not changed that much and people still appreciate them for what they are.”

“The good news out of this whole story is that Gibson is now going to get back to the fundamentals, to making great guitars, and that was a goldmine,” Foley said.

Gibson Brands’ re-negotiated reorganization plan filed will now allow them to continue operations with $135 million in financing from lenders.

Former employees told Fox 17 News they don’t anticipate the company laying off hourly or production workers since they’re needed to make the guitars here in Nashville.

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