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Gibson Guitars Announces New CEO, Leadership Team

Gibson Brands Inc., the iconic but troubled guitar brand that recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, announced on Tuesday the appointment of James “JC” Curleigh as president and chief executive officer. 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 Schmitzas CPO (chief production officer).

The appointments of Curleigh and the new Gibson senior team are effective Nov.1.

The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May after several years of decline under former CEO Henry Juszkiewicz. The petition estimated up to $500 million in debt, according to Bloomberg, and the lenders have agreed to an operating, or “debtor in possession,” loan of up to $135 million to fund operations.

According to the announcement, 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.”

“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,” said 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.

“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,” he continued. “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 Gibson collector, Gueikian joins the Company as the new chief merchant officer (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.

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.

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.

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.

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