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Gibson Guitars fights Bankruptcy Blues with New CEO

New leadership could help the Nashville guitar-makers bounce back after filing for bankruptcy earlier this year.

Gibson just announced an all-new leadership team in hopes of a quick recovery from their financial woes. James “JC” Curleigh (currently global president of Levi Strauss & Co) will take over starting next month, joined by three other new senior executives — Cesar Gueikian as CMO, Kim Mattoon as CFO and Christian Schmitz as CPO — as well as Nat Zilkha, incoming chair of Gibson’s board of directors.

“Entering the company, the first thing I’d want to do is thank everyone for persevering through the obstacle course,” Curleigh tells Rolling Stone, referring to Gibson’s months-long bankruptcy and restructuring process. “And now, as a historic brand, let’s re-earn our leadership. You don’t want to keep looking at what’s behind you. Let’s make sure our rearview mirror is not bigger than the windshield.”

He notes that Gibson will emerge on November 1st with an “entirely clean balance sheet” and the ability to start afresh, regrouping around its tried-and-true business of musical instrument-making. While Gibson may look at other products and avenues down the line, Curleigh says, the immediate task is growing the success of its guitars and other fretted instruments. Maybe they should pay attention to the recent study by Fender, which showed half of all new guitarists are women.

Gibson Guitars filed for Bankruptcy in May, with debts somewhere between $100 million and $500 million. Previous CEO Henry Juskiewicz stated the company had plans to “re-focus, reorganize, and restructure”, with plans to eliminate their side businesses and concentrate on selling musical instruments. “Over the past 12 months, we have made substantial strides through an operational restructuring. We have sold non-core brands, increased earnings, and reduced working capital demands.”

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