Interview: Arturo Vicari, RCF Audio

RCF has bought one of its rivals in the pro audio world in EAW, so Paul Milligan spoke to RCF’s CEO, Arturo Vicari, to find out what the deal meant for both companies moving forward.

The buying and selling of companies is often purely down to timing. Factors include are you looking to sell a part of your business? Is there some cash floating around that could be put to better use? Are you looking to add to your portfolio of brands? The news that Italian manufacturer RCF Audio had bought EAW (Eastern Acoustic Works) in early September from Loud Audio (part of Transom Capital Group) was also down to timing. 

Loud was looking to focus purely on its Mackie brand, having previously sold Ampeg to Yamaha in April and Martin Audio to a management buyout in July.  The deal sees RCF come full circle, and marks the second time EAW and RCF will exist under the same roof. RCF was purchased by Mackie Designs (now Loud) in 1998, EAW was then added to the same portfolio in 2000. When Mackie Designs became Loud Technologies in 2003 it divested the RCF the same year.

Speaking to Arturo Vicari, CEO of RCF Group, I asked him how the deal came about; “We have always followed developments in the market and been in touch on several different occasions. This year the conditions for this deal began to materialise and we enjoyed good cooperation with Transom Capital Group during all our discussions. We were able to reach a mutually beneficial result and we were extremely glad to see such a positive reaction from the market.” 

The deal was met with favourably on the EAW side of things too, as TJ Smith, president of EAW, said in a press release issued at the time of sale: “For those who love EAW it is difficult to imagine a better scenario. From the first moment this possibility started to materialise it has been clear that joining forces with RCF Group is a great opportunity for EAW. This transaction is a true recognition of what the brand represents, its potential, as well as the team we have built over recent years.”

So what was it that attracted EAW to the RCF Group? “In the early days of EAW, the two companies began cooperating. RCF was supplying professional transducers to EAW and both brands kept growing, becoming important players in the pro audio market worldwide,” says Vicari. “Their histories were intertwined several times.” Quite often in these cases the brand name that has been bought slowly disappears from view, before completed vanishing from the marketplace. 

Will this be the case this time, or will the EAW brand remain for the long term? EAW is an iconic brand and its name means a lot to many loyal customers, not only in the US but in the major markets worldwide. RCF has a very good positioning and brand recognition in USA and is growing fast, but with the addition of EAW, the presence of our group in the US becomes much stronger and we certainly hope to gain more customers and to expand our business,” says Vicari.

Is the the main benefit of the sale the increase in exposure of the RCF name to American customers, or an increase of exposure within Europe for EAW? “Both EAW and RCF are well known brands in USA, Europe and worldwide and this will be beneficial for all companies in our Group, providing more exposure to all brands and further growth,” says Vicari.

What can being part of RCF’s business do for EAW going forward, how does Vicari think RCF can improve EAW from its current position? “EAW will be able to count on the necessary investment in order to reinforce the organisation, to continue expanding the products offering and to improve the service and support to its customers”. So how does Vicari see the two companies fitting together, do they have similar philosophies or do they work and think in different ways? “Both companies have a long and important history in the pro audio industry. Both companies rely strongly on passionate teamwork and share this same passion for offering technological products and best solutions to the customers. EAW’s attitude and organisation fits perfectly into the CF Group’s way of working.”

I then asked Vicari if there were any gaps in the RCF product portfolio that EAW could help fill, or vice-versa? “The companies in the RCF Group have their own identities and their core business comes from different backgrounds and perspectives. Each company will continue to develop products and solutions suitable for their customers and markets. Being part of a solid group will enable all companies to keep growing with more resources.”

So if the companies are to maintain separate identities, will they share the outcomes of each one’s R&D departments, or will R&D for both companies now just come from RCF maybe? “The industry is more and more competitive and it is important to react quickly to market demand, and be able increasingly to offer complete solutions. Investment is constantly required to update products, technological solutions and service, the experience and the know-how of the two companies will help EAW to improve its product portfolio creating synergies within the RCF Group. The brand will absolutely remain EAW and will continue to act as an independent company so will the R&D and all the other business units.”

Finally I asked Vicari if we might see RCF buying more audio brands in the foreseeable future? “The RCF group is expanding and follows market developments very carefully in order to evaluate all the opportunities that might arise, we can say that this wasn’t just a one-off deal.”