Hall of Fame: Paul Jacobs : Keeping A Legacy Brand Vibrant
Paul Jacobs, CEO of KlipschJanuary 2014 By Nancy Klosek
Balancing the preservation of a revered brand with keeping its products in step with changing consumer tastes, a daunting task in any business, has been a crowning achievement of Paul Jacobs, CEO of the Klipsch Group.
Jacobs, who came to Klipsch in 1991 after having worked for the national retailer Fretter Appliance, is a self-described hi-fi aficionado. “I don’t know that I’m an audiophile but I’ve certainly spent a fair amount of the treasures I’ve earned over the years on audio equipment,” he said. He arrived at the company while founder Paul Klipsch was still designing speakers. Jacobs worked alongside him, often sharing meals and conversation about audio.
“For a young guy to get to spend some time with him; I don’t know that mentor is a big enough word for it. You had the chance to feel his passion. He’d play demos and we’d discuss technology,” Jacobs said.
“We believe the company exists today because of what he believed and the things he practiced, and we try to stay true to them. There have been some times over the years when we’ve done some things that he would not have approved of, and frankly, you can always look back in hindsight. But I’ll tell you, the Paul Klipsch DNA still runs through this company.”
That high-performance DNA still defines Klipsch as the company’s premium brand. By osmosis, that DNA also runs through the two other brands under the Klipsch umbrella: Jamo, the European brand featuring Danish design, and Energy, the solutions-oriented plug-and-play label. “What’s changing on Klipsch, though, is that we’re modifying leaning on performance as our opening hand,” Jacobs said. “We’re moving to lifestyle as an amazing opening of us, but the high-performance part won’t change,”
The buildup of these three distinct brands, which serve specific market niches and dealer needs, was forged over time. But before that, there was only Klipsch, which Jacobs helped during one of its most trying moments.
In 1996, Klipsch was at a crossroads and it was clear that changes needed to be made. At CES, Jacobs sat down with Fred Klipsch (former CEO and current board member of Klipsch owner VOXX) and made his pitch. “I said, ‘I don’t know about engineering, but I do know about audio and how to put a team together. I think we can make a difference.’ I told him, ‘If you can buy me a year, we can change everything.’”