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Gibson Brands Names James “JC” Curleigh as New CEO

Gibson Brands, Inc. has announced the appointment of James “JC” Curleigh (pictured above) as president and chief executive officer (CEO). Curleigh joins Gibson from Levi Strauss & Co., where he served as president of the Levi’s brand, and was a member of its worldwide leadership team. Gibson also announced the appointments of Cesar Gueikian as CMO (chief merchant officer); Kim Mattoon as CFO (chief financial officer); and Christian Schmitz as CPO (chief production officer). The appointments of Curleigh and the new Gibson senior team are effective Nov. 1, 2018.

The appointment follows years of financial trouble for Gibson Brands that ended recently with the company settling its Chapter 11 cases with stakeholders and Henry Juszkiewicz stepping down as CEO.

The company says Curleigh will lead a new Gibson senior team "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." Their collective focus will be on setting the conditions for success for Gibson Brands, 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 honoured to play a leading role with this iconic brand.”

Curleigh continued: “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.”

Nat Zilkha, incoming Chairman of Gibson’s Board of Directors and representing the new majority ownership group (KKR), said, “JC’s track record speaks for itself – he’s a rock star when it comes to understanding consumers and shaping a marketplace, working with retail partners and building world class brands. JC, Cesar, Kim and Christian bring new energy and vision to Gibson, fueled by authentic passion for the company and music. On behalf of Gibson’s Board of Directors, I look forward to partnering with them to help Gibson achieve its strategic vision and forge a successful, bright future for the Company and all of its stakeholders.”

A life-long guitarist and avid Gibson collector, Gueikian joins the Company as the new CMO after a 20-year career as an entrepreneur and financier, investing in the growth of companies around the world. He has led teams at global investment houses culminating with the founding and successful growth of his own firm. In his role, Gueikian will focus on product and its evolution, commercial solutions, and connecting fans through marketing strategies to drive profitable growth.

“Joining Gibson is the opportunity of a lifetime for me,” says Gueikian. “As a business person, a musician, and lifelong fan of the craftsmanship and quality of Gibson guitars, I am thrilled to help shape the future of a company whose instruments have influenced my life and the sound of music globally. I am committed to collaborating closely with all of Gibson’s stakeholders, including our artists, dealers, our employees, and our customers to expand on Gibson’s leadership. I share their passion for Gibson’s iconic instruments and I am confident that together we will create a successful future that is worthy of the company’s incredible heritage.”

As CFO, Mattoon will support Gibson by ensuring the company builds and maintains the financial, human and other resources necessary to sustain a growth trajectory and invest in the future. She joins Gibson from Richemont North America where she served as chief operating officer, and brings deep financial acumen, proven brand-building experience and an enterprise-wide understanding of strategy and execution to Gibson.

“I’m incredibly excited to join Gibson and to be part of a company with such an iconic legacy and promising future,” says Mattoon. “With our strong financial position and clean balance sheet, we have an opportunity to build on and expand Gibson’s core guitar business as the company moves into this next chapter. I look forward to working with JC, Cesar, Christian and the entire Gibson team to drive long-term growth at Gibson and ensure that the Company continues to represent the pinnacle of the music industry.”

As chief production officer, Christian Schmitz will take on the challenge of driving best practices in manufacturing, creating supply chain synergy and establishing operational excellence across Gibson’s U.S. and global production platform. Schmitz has been a key member of the transition team at Gibson over the past year and his operational leadership, experience and focus on collaboration and teamwork will immediately benefit the Company.

“Having worked with the Gibson team for the past year, I am confident we can continue to turn our production focus into a competitive advantage for Gibson,” says Schmitz.

Gibson will emerge from bankruptcy protection on Nov. 1, 2018. Upon emergence, KKR will be the majority owner with the controlling interest of the company. KKR is a global investment firm that has an extensive track record of investments in the retail and consumer industries.

For more information, go to www.gibson.com.