On January 6, Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC) announced that KMC Music, its wholly owned subsidiary, has sold the Ovation acoustic guitar brand to Drum Workshop, Inc. Considering Fender’s recent history of brand divestment, the move isn’t entirely unexpected. However, the fact that Ovation was acquired by DW—a major manufacturer of percussion instruments and accessories—raised a few eyebrows across the industry.
Founded in the mid-1960s by aerospace engineer Charles Kaman, the Ovation brand of guitars distinguished itself thanks to its use of fiberglass-composed, bowl-shaped guitar backs and, later, onboard electronics. Thanks to Glen Campbell and other well-known supporters, Ovation enjoyed a period of great popularity in the 1970s and 1980s. Less than a decade ago, the Kaman Corporation decided to sell off KMC, its music-related subsidiary, to Fender, but last year, Fender announced it was closing its Connecticut-based Ovation manufacturing facility, leaving all of Ovation’s production to its overseas facilities in South Korea, China, and Indonesia.
For Fender, this is the second major acoustic-guitar brand with which it has parted ways in the past year. The company first sold its Guild brand to Cordoba last year. In addition, Fender recently announced it was ending its European distribution relationship with Japanese maker Takamine, calling into question the future of that brand as well.
As for Drum Workshop, the bulk of their acquired Fender product lines revolve around percussion, while the inclusion of Ovation in the sale seems to be of secondary importance–at least for the time being. Initial reports indicate that DW will be keeping the Ovation brand alive. Scott Donnell, VP of marketing at Drum Workshop, calls it a “fluid situation.” “We’re excited about the future of Ovation and what we can do with that brand,” he says. He adds that, based on preliminary discussions, there is a “distinct possibility” that Ovation will be re-opening a U.S.-based production facility. Although DW will not be showing the Ovation brand at the 2015 NAMM show, they hope to have a presence for next year’s event.