Long-running Stage Tec/Salzbrenner dispute untangled3 August 2016
It’s one of the most recognisable names in pro audio, but also one of the most contentious. Kevin Hilton looks at the acrimonious – and confusing – situation between the different Stage Tec and Salzbrenner companies that is finally drawing to a close
The existence of three apparently separate operations each using either the Stage Tec/Stagetec or Salzbrenner names – or both – has caused confusion in the market in the last 20 years. This state of affairs became more convoluted earlier this year but now appears to be approaching a conclusion following negotiations between two of the parties and the closure of the third.
During IBC 2015 Stage Tec, manufacturer of the AURUS digital mixing console and NEXUS routing and networking system, announced a restructuring that included the appointment of Dr Helmut Jahne as sole managing director. Jahne was a co-founder of the company in 1993, when it was known as Stage Tec Entwicklungsgesellschaft für professionelle Audiotechnik (literally ‘Stage Tec development for professional audio’, or EfpA – our abbreviation – for short).
The manufacturing division grew out of a sales company founded in the Bavarian town of Hallstadt in 1992. Stage Tec Vertrieb für professionelle Audiotechnik (‘Stage Tec, trade for professional audio’, VfpA – our shorter version again) went on to become the exclusive distributor for Stage Tec console and networking products. A third component was later added with the creation of the systems integrator latterly known as Salzbrenner Stagetec Audio Video Mediensysteme. When its premises in Hallstadt became too small for its growing development and manufacturing operations, Stage Tec EfpA moved to larger facilities in Berlin in 1999. In 2001, Stage Tec VfpA and Salzbrenner Stagetec Audio Video Mediensysteme also left Hallstadt, moving to the market town of Buttenheim some 24km away.
Also during the early 2000s the Salzbrenner family took full ownership of the sales company, renaming it Salzbrenner Stagetec Vertrieb professoneller Audiotechnik. Salzbrenner Stagetec Audio Video Mediensysteme also handles Stage Tec products, including the AURUS and NEXUS, but, to add to an already confused situation, produces its own range of digital mixing systems, notably the POLARIS series of networked mixing desks.
At the end of 2015, following the appointment of Helmut Jahne, the existing Salzbrenner Stagetec/Stage Tec website was “separated out”, with the various companies taking on even more individual identities. In February 2016 there was a further delineation when the email domains of the operations were also changed so that each company had its own address. Early in March, the sales company was renamed; ‘Salzbrenner’ was dropped to make it Stagetec Vertrieb professoneller Audiotechnik again. It was also moved from Buttenheim back to Hallstadt.
Shortly after this Stagetec Vertrieb professoneller Audiotechnik filed for insolvency in the German courts. According to Helmut Jahne the company had been having difficulty paying its bills and was shut down owing €11 million to the Stage Tec manufacturing operation in Berlin.
In April, both Stage Tec from Berlin and Salzbrenner Stagetec Audio Video Mediensysteme of Buttenheim attended Prosound + Light in Frankfurt. The latter announced that it had changed its name to Salzbrenner media, with the slogan “Professional in everything we do”. Joint managing director Thomas Salzbrenner commented that the date of this name change, 1 April, coincided with the founding of the parent group on the same date in 1963.
Explaining the reason for the move and general restructuring, fellow joint managing director Wolfgang Saltzbrenner said, “Since last year we have been readjusting our structures and processes with focus on the perspectives of the worldwide media markets. Now is the time to unify our brands.” The company also presented the POLARIS evolution console for theatre projects and introduced the NIO xcel range of network audio interfaces.
In addition to its own products the Salzbrenner media website shows that the company continues to handle the Stage Tec ranges and those of the intercom and commentary system specialist Delec. Head of sales Marco Kraft told PSNEurope that Salzbrenner media was “fine and independent” but that Stage Tec “is one of our important product deliverers for system integration projects”. He added that Stagetec Vertrieb professoneller Audiotechnik had supplied Stage Tec products to the SI company in its role as official distribution channel for the ranges. Kraft also confirmed that Stagetec Vertrieb professoneller Audiotechnik had now ceased trading.
During PL+S, Stage Tec launched Platinum DSP for its consoles, along with an intelligent fibre-optic board for connectivity on its NEXUS audio networks and mixing desks. The company has also strengthened its sales operation with the appointment of Alexander Nemes as sales manager and Jens Kuhlmann to the role of project planning and customer support.
Commenting on the situation with Salzbrenner media, Helmut Jahne said that it was “a good idea” for the integration company to change its name and remove the Stagetec component. He added that while not all disputes between the two sides were resolved, negotiations were continuing between the Salzbrenner family and Stage Tec EfpA. At the time of going to press he hoped that a final agreement would be reached in the near future.
Top picture: Dr Helmut Jahne, co-founder of the original 1993 Stage Tec.
Bottom: The AURUS Platinum digital mixing console