The Morning Call a écrit:Martin Guitar CEO Chris Martin IV announces retirement
By Anthony Salamone
Jul 16, 2020 at 1:36 PM
Martin guitars have been revered for generations and played by legendary musicians like Gene Autry, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Eric Clapton to newer headliners such as John Mayer and Ed Sheeran.
The sixth-generation leader of global guitar maker C.F. Martin & Co. Inc., Chris Martin IV, brought the stringed instruments to the forefront of the music industry in his three-plus decades running the privately held company.
That’s about to end: Martin, who recently turned 65, said Thursday via an announcement to employees and vendors that he will retire in July 2021 as CEO. He plans to remain board chairman, and the family ownership will continue.
Martin said the retirement will also coincide with his stepping down as chairman of NAMM, the National Association of Music Merchants.
“I’ve spent over 40 years in my family business and what a ride it’s been,” Martin said in a statement released by the company, declining an interview request on the retirement announcement. “Now I’ve reached the point where it’s time for me to move into the role of Executive Chairman.
“I am confident in the current leadership team, because I know they love the company as much as I do and I will be working closely with them through this transition.”
Also Thursday, the company said Jacqueline Renner, Martin guitar president, who joined the company in 2015, announced she will retire Oct. 1, 2021. The company has retained an outside firm, Hudson Gain Corp., to conduct a search for a new CEO-president.
This could mean a break in a Martin family member running day-to-day operations at the fabled guitar maker, which was begun in 1833 by German immigrant Christian Frederick Martin Sr. But it has happened before: C. Hugh Bloom Jr., ran the company for several years during the 1982 resignation of Martin’s father, Frank Herbert Martin.
Martin took over as chairman and CEO when he was 31, according to a 1986 Morning Call story.
Martin’s parents divorced when he was 3, and he spent his childhood years in New Jersey. Not growing up around the company and the guitar business might have been an advantage, he said then, because it gave him a fresh perspective on the company and its goals.
He returned to Nazareth at age 18, and joined the family business after earning a degree in business administration from Boston University. He was named assistant to the president in 1982, and vice president of marketing in 1985 before becoming CEO the next year.
“I’ve dedicated myself to this,” he said in the 1986 story, soon after the company board named him chairman. “It’s what I am. I’m C. F. Martin, and it’s my job to make sure the Martin Guitar Co. is a viable, ongoing concern.”
He succeeded his grandfather, C.F. Martin III, who played an active role in running the family business until his death in June 1986 at the age of 91.
Chris Martin also took over when the company, known for generations for its quality instruments and reputation, had been struggling financially. Hard times at the company began in 1980, with the guitar boom of earlier decades ending. The U.S. economy was headed for a recession, and cheap electronic synthesizer keyboards were becoming the rage.
Craig Thatcher of Coopersburg, a bandleader who serves as a subcontractor to Martin Guitar, said bringing the acoustic instrument on the show “MTV Unplugged” beginning in the early 1990s led to the company’s resurgence. Soon, celebrity musicians such as Eric Clapton, who appeared in a 1992 “Unplugged” special, began promoting the instrument.
“Chris really turned that around under his leadership and guidance with ‘MTV Unplugged,” said Thatcher, who is Martin Guitar’s “international clinician and ambassador,” according to his website. “It really turned the page on acoustic guitars, and they haven’t really looked back.”
The recent decades have seen Martin Guitar emerge stronger; the company today employs nearly 500 people in the Lehigh Valley — nearly all in the Nazareth area.
Scott Brodt of Nazareth Music Center said Martin has never been an exemplary guitar player. But that didn’t stop him from surrounding himself with creative, innovative and thoughtful people who knew how to build a better acoustic guitar.
“He was always one step ahead and built, literally, the finest folk guitar in the world,” said Brodt, who co-owns the Main Street music store and sells Martins.
In June 2019, Martin told The Morning Call the company was building a 200,000-square-foot distribution center and warehouse at the Chrin Commerce Centre near Route 33 in Tatamy. He called it the company’s largest single corporate expenditure in its history.
Martin said earlier this week the project is still on target to be opened in 2021, and the climate-control facility will be a place for the company to showcase its woods and finished instruments to “really good customers” as well as dealers and distributors.
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