Milestone, Da-Lite Merger is About Broader Brand Exposure

by Jeremy J. Glowacki

Yesterday, Milestone AV Technologies, which is the parent company of the Chief and Sanus video mount brands, announced a pending merger with Da-Lite, the 100-year-old projection screen company based in Warsaw, IN. Today I learned a little more about the transaction, which will result in a business of nearly 1,000 employees worldwide and eight major operating locations.

There’s obvious harmony in what these brands offer the marketplace, in that they’re all designed to help display a video image, whether via a mounted projector or flat-panel display or onto a screen. Milestone AV Technologies marketing director Laurie Englert acknowledged these complementary product attributes, saying that the merger will help create “a more robust product offering” for the subsidiaries’ customer bases and also utilize their combined brand legacies and reputations for strong customer service.

“Both companies have been around quite a long time and have been able to thrive in our own separate ways,” Englert said. “Bringing all of that experience together is giving us more depth of knowledge, but also the ability to service our customers better. One of the great synergies between the two companies is that we’re both pretty renowned around the industry for our customer service, so from that perspective it’s really a great cultural fit, too.”

In 2008, Milestone became part of the Duchossois Group out of Illinois, a company with interests in control and automation, access control, lighting, and venture capital, as well as the owner of AMX.

Da-Lite’s vice president of marketing, Wendy Long, says that her company hopes to expand its exposure on the residential side of the business, beyond contractors. “Honestly, I think this is going to be a good opportunity for Da-Lite, particularly in the retail market,” she wrote to me in an email. “We are strong in the CEDIA channel, but we do not have a presence in retail and Chief/Sanus are both very strong. There are a lot of other benefits to both companies in manufacturing, shared customers and even sourcing. We certainly don't have all (or even most) of the answers now, but we look forward to working with the Milestone AV group.”

Similar to when Milestone was created out of the combination of Chief and Sanus back in 2004, Englert said the goal is not to eliminate redundancies between the companies like so many mergers or acquisitions do, but to keep the brands operating relatively independently, while finding ways to leverage strengths and improve on weaknesses.

“Like the merger with Sanus, we’ve kept the brands in tact, and we really do like to do that because we think that brands have strong positioning themselves and when you have core operating businesses running those brands, they do truly stay distinct,” Englert said.

She noted that in the earlier merger, although Chief and Sanus streamlined some back-end functions and consolidated some operational practices, they never had to eliminate employees as a result. “Never was this a cost-cutting measure,” she said. “It was just to expand our presence in the market.”

Not every Milestone business transaction has followed this pattern, however. The company actually acquired the assets of Raxxess Metalsmiths, a supplier of rack-mount solutions, furniture, and related accessories for commercial and residential applications, back in June 2009, moving that operation from its former headquarters in New Jersey to Milestone’s facility in Savage, MN.

When asked if yesterday’s merger would affect the dealer bases of any of the brands, Englert reiterated that the deal was about having more product exposure in the market, not so much going “into each other’s customers, because maybe not all of them want that.”

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