Steinway, Three Other Units Sold by CBS

Times Staff Writer

CBS said Friday that it has sold Steinway & Sons, the piano maker, to a group of Boston businessmen for an undisclosed sum.

The investor group also bought the three remaining components of CBS’ music instrument manufacturing operations: Elkhart, Ind.-based Gemeinhardt, which makes flutes and piccolos; Chicago-based Lyon & Healy Harps, and Hillsboro, Ore.-based Rodgers Organ Co.

Both CBS and the investors declined at a news conference to reveal the sales price of the four properties. The news conference was held at Steinway Hall, which Steinway & Sons built in 1925 just down Manhattan’s 57th Street from Carnegie Hall to display and sell its grand pianos and to provide rehearsal space for concert pianists.

Earlier this year, CBS sold its Fender Musical Instruments subsidiary to another group of investors led by the president of the Anaheim-based maker of electric guitars.

$37.8-Million Write-Down

Fred J. Meyer, senior vice president and chief financial officer of CBS, said the company had taken a $37.8-million net loss on the disposition of the entire musical instruments division. This included the Friday sale as well as the Fender sale. He said $29 million of the write-down, net of taxes, was taken in the final quarter of 1984, and the remaining $8.8 million was taken in the 1985 second quarter.


The musical companies had been only minimally profitable in recent years. Meyer said that CBS sold the operations because “we came to the conclusion that we could not add much to the musical instrument companies.”

Henry Steinway, the great grandson of Henry Englehard Steinway, a cabinet maker who made the first Steinway piano in this country in 1853, attended the news conference. He said afterward that he was “delighted” that the firm he headed from 1955 to 1972, when CBS purchased it, “will be privately operated again. It just didn’t work out with a big company running it.”

Vow Not to Move Steinway

The investors who purchased the four companies formed a Boston holding company, Steinway Musical Properties, to buy them. The group includes John P. Birmingham, 43, an attorney; Robert P. Birmingham, 40, his brother; James F. Stone, 45, and Bruce A. Stevens, 43, former director of international marketing for Polaroid.

Stevens, who will be president and chief executive of the new holding company, vowed that the new owners will not move Steinway’s manufacturing facilities from New York’s Borough of Queens, where 1,000 people work, or from Hamburg, West Germany, where another 500 are employed.

More than 490,000 pianos have been made by Steinway since 1853. All are numbered and records have been kept of the original sales. It takes a year to complete a Steinway grand but less time to build a stand-up piano.

Rodgers, founded in 1958, makes nine models of organs. Lyon & Healy Harps was founded in 1864. Its harps are individually handcrafted and are generally regarded by professionals as the premier harp instrument line. Gemeinhardt is the world’s largest maker of flutes and piccolos.