Gibson Guitars has appointed former Levi’s President, Global Brands, James ‘JC’ Curleigh as CEO. Curleigh, credited with turning the once struggling Levi’s jeans brand around in just six years, will head a completely new senior management team announced this week. The new team comprises Cesar Guelkian CMO (chief merchant officer); Kim Mattoon CFO (chief financial officer) and Christian Schmitz CPO (chief production officer). The appointments of Curleigh and the new Gibson senior team are effective from 1st November 2018.
In a statement, Gibson says: ‘Curleigh will lead a new Gibson senior team of proven global professionals with broad experience across brand building, product quality and innovation, and business development to establish operational excellence and build a strong team dynamic across the enterprise. They will collectively focus on setting the conditions for success for Gibson Brands to continue to create high quality instruments, develop meaningful partnerships and deliver profitable growth across the core business of guitars and beyond’.
‘As a musician, I have always treasured my Gibson guitars and I have the utmost respect for the iconic Gibson brand and those who choose to play Gibson guitars,’ says Curleigh. ‘Gibson has been a pioneer of craftsmanship and innovation in musical instruments and has been synonymous with shaping the sounds of generations and genres for more than 100 years. I am very honored to play a leading role with this iconic brand.
‘As a business leader and a brand builder, this is the beginning of a new era for Gibson that will build on its proven heritage and iconic status. We are focusing on the future and off to a fresh start, with a strong financial foundation, a committed and experienced new leadership team and new ownership that is equally passionate about the brand. As the industry leader, we have an opportunity and an obligation to set the best conditions for success for our brands, our fans, our partners and our own extended team. I look forward to leading Gibson confidently into the future.’
Curleigh has proved that he can walk the walk in the turbulent world of international ‘heritage’ brands. When he left Levi’s following a successful six year stint rebuilding the company’s profile, Chip Bergh, president and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co. said: ‘Over the past six years, Curleigh and his team have returned the Levi’s brand to profitable growth through a strategic focus on building brand energy, driving product innovation and establishing market solutions around the world.
‘JC joined LS&Co. with a mission to re-establish Levi’s as a leading lifestyle brand. Today, our brands are more relevant and we are more connected to popular culture than we’ve been in decades. His leadership has been critical to driving our current success.’
The other members of the new Gibson team come with similarly impressive cvs. Prior to Gibson, CMO, Cesar Guelkian, founded Melody Capital Partners, an alternative asset manager focused on private corporate financing and investing. Under his leadership, Melody grew from a seed investment of $100 million to more than $1.5 billion in assets under management, Gibson says.
Kim Mattoon (CFO), has nearly 25 years of experience working with consumer brands and was most recently the chief operating officer of Richemont North America, a global luxury consumer products company. Prior to that she was CFO at IWC Schaffhausen and Peter Millar – both Richemont portfolio companies – and as Vice President – Finance, Real Estate, and IT at The Body Shop. She began her career and spent 10 years at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Gibson’s Chief Production Officer will no doubt be a key player given the guitar maker’s previous production difficulties. Gibson says: ‘As CPO, Schmitz will oversee Gibson’s U.S. and global production platform, driving global best practices in manufacturing, supply chain synergy and operational excellence. He brings expertise in operations, production and manufacturing accumulated from his years of experience working with a variety of industries and global brands’.
Though the senior management team is lacking direct MI experience, one other appointment offers comfort to those who believe an MI company needs management that understands the peculiarities of the musical instrument business. Nat Zilkha, incoming Chairman of Gibson’s Board of Directors, represents the new majority ownership group (KKR) and has experience working as a successful professional musician. Zilkha joined KKR in 2007 and serves as the Head of Alternative Credit, which includes the firm’s private credit, principal finance and special situations businesses. He is a lifelong guitar player and musician, having played lead guitar for the New York-based band Red Rooster in his earlier years. In his time with the Red Rooster, the band toured extensively and released three albums.
Gibson will emerge from bankruptcy protection on November 1, 2018. Upon emergence, KKR will be the majority owner with the controlling interest of the Company.