Fender, Iconic Guitar-Maker, Aims to Rock Wall Street With IPO

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Jimi Hendrix performing live onstage playing a Fender Stratocaster guitar.

Fender Musical Instruments, the most famous guitar manufacturer in American history, is planning to crank up the volume on its business by selling shares in an initial public offering. Fender, whose signature Stratocaster model was used by John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, aims to take advantage of the strong stock market to raise as much as $200 million.

“We believe that the Fender brand in particular is closely associated with the birth of rock ‘n roll and has a strong legacy in music and in popular culture,” the company said in its IPO filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday. “We believe our guitars and guitar amplifiers revolutionized the way music is written, played and heard.”

Fender, which saw sales increase 13% last year to $700.6 million, says it ranks number one in the U.S. by revenue for electric, acoustic and bass guitars, as well as electric and bass guitar amplifiers. The company says it plans to use $100 million from the IPO proceeds to pay down debt.

Here’s the NYT with details on Fender’s history:

Founded by Leo Fender, the company’s roots trace to 1946. In 1965, Mr. Fender sold to CBS, which then spun off the business 20 years later in a deal with a pair of businessmen, William Schultz and William Mendello. Weston Presidio, a private equity firm, also owns a stake in the company, which is based in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Over the last several decades, the company’s guitars, banjos, ukuleles and mandolins have struck a chord with a broad range of musicians in rock, pop and blues. Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Guy, recognized as some of the world’s best guitarists, have all strummed Fender guitars. The company also claims to have the No. 1 market share by revenue in electric and acoustic guitars.

But their status hasn’t always translated into strong profits. The company said on Thursday that its net sales climbed to about $700 million in the 2011 fiscal year, up from $617 million in 2010. Fender swung back to a profit last year, reporting net income attributable to common stockholders of $3.2 million, compared with a $17.3 million loss in 2010.

And here’s the WSJ on some highlights from the company’s IPO filing:

Shareholders: Private equity firm Weston Presidio Capital holds 42.9%. Japanese musical instrument company Yamano Music Co. holds 14% while Japanese importer Kanda Shokai Corp. owns 13%. The family trust of William Schultz, who had led the private equity buyout of Fender from CBS Corp. in 1985 and turned around the company, owns 5.8%.

China, of course, is learning to jam: [There’s] increasing popularity and gradual incorporation of guitar-based music in some large, emerging markets like China, India and Indonesia; and increasing availability of guitar-based music and alternative music education programs.

Guitar mergers likely: We anticipate future industry consolidation and believe we are well-positioned to make strategic acquisitions or enter into strategic partnerships when opportunities arise.

Tweeting and plucking: We intend to continue to increase our social media presence through tools such as Facebook and Twitter, and to engage directly with consumers through online lifestyle communities focused on artist-driven music content.