Steinway to be sold to Chinese state company

Steinway to be sold to Chinese state company


norman lebrecht

August 08, 2018

The long-troubled piano manufacturer, presently in the hands of a hedge fund, is being smartened up for sale to a state-owned Chinese company, Poly Group Corp., according to Bloomberg.

The price could be as much as a billion US dollars, twice what the company was last sold for in 2013.

Steinway has Lang Lang as its brand leader.

That should clinch it.

Report here.



  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    If Lang Lang is in it might be time to Short Short the stock.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Symbol of erosion of the old monopolies in classical music, like the troubles of the big record labels and the big publishers.

  • Sandy Holland says:

    Is there really no German company that can buy Steinway?

    • No Debt says:

      Follow the money (more accurately “fiat currency”).

      THE PBOC (People’s bank of China) will most likely create the money (Yuan) for the purchase price out of thin air in their computer for Poly Group, buy USD with it and use that to pay the hedge fund who will be laughing all the way to the bank.

      The HF probably financed their purchase price with debt at fractions of percent interest back in 2013. That would be called a “leveraged buy out”; in many cases the debt is subsequently
      transferred to the company that was bought out and the latter often goes bankrupt. The HF hyenas clear a large profit in any case.

      Although the ECB (European Central Bank) is in Frankfurt, Germany, the money it creates out of nothing in *its* computer is currently being used to buy up all the government bonds of the bankrupt “Club Med” nations and bonds of zombie companies. So nothing gives there. A private German company would have to have extraordinary connections to get the ECB to create the credit for them to buy up Steinway.

    • Caravaggio says:

      Exactly what I thought. Same thing with the now defunct Saab auto division which I also believe became short-term owned by some Chinese conglomerate after GM dropped the brand. Why didn’t the govt of Sweden or some Swedish company/conglomerate rescue the prestigious car maker?

      • Pianofortissimo says:

        Saab Automobile had been deficitary for 60 years and the Swedish conglomerates that owned it decided that enough was enough. I Think that is not the case with Steinway – maybe the company is just too small to be on its own.

    • Tamino says:

      Why should they? The future market for high quality pianos is in China. Western countries are too far down the decadence road, to be still interested in quality pianos in numbers.

    • Scotty says:

      Steinway has never been a German company. Why should Germany have a special claim to it?

  • Steve says:

    As our culture is rapidly deteriorating then thank god for China coming along and saving the best of what we have (classical music in general…)

    • Monsoon says:

      Oh please.

      Steinway’s decline has nothing to do with “our culture rapidly deteriorating.”

      It’s called increased competition. And, it doesn’t help that the pianos last forever if properly cared for — there is a huge used market.

    • Ron Smith says:

      I admittedly don’t know much about Steinway’s history but IMHO, China doesn’t care about Steinway as a company but more about its name and reputation. How long before we start seeing $1000 Steinways?

  • pme says:

    Not clear from the linked article if this relates to just the piano part of the business or the broader Steinway Musical Instruments, Inc., which also includes such major band and orchestral instrument brands as Conn & Bach brasswinds, Ludwig percussion, Selmer woodwinds and others.

    Since they are using the Steinway Musical Instruments, Inc name, it could be the latter, although they only refer to the pianos in the report.

  • Bill says:

    Gibson has already moved production of Baldwin pianos to China and Gibson itself is in bankruptcy and will likely be in Chinese hands at some point. I expect the new owners of Steinway will move production to China at some point. Maybe even the same factory as they are making Baldwin.
    Unfortunately, American companies only seem really good at destroying businesses these days.

  • steven holloway says:

    This does seem like common sense. With Lang Lang as its mascot, Steinway has a gargantuan market in China. Elsewhere, so many pianists are showing a preference for Fazioli recently, as many have for a longer time preferred Bosendorfer or Yamaha. Steinway is no longer the benchmark of the finest piano.

  • barry guerrero says:

    As someone who follows the prices and quality control of expensive brass instruments, i.e. tubas, I can tell that the Chinese instruments are getting better and better – and for about 1/3rd the price of instruments made in northern Europe. This is true for tubas made in all five keys: BBb, CC, Eb, F and Bb (euphonium or baritone).

    • El Duderino says:

      You can probably thank Beijing Symphony Orchestra’s principal Tuba, Micky Wrobleski, for that.
      He’s been working with so many of the instrument makers there for quite a while and keeps improving each year.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    With any luck the new owners will actually run it as a piano business. The (once) good name of Baldwin was damaged years ago when some investors got ahold of it and morphed the name into a highly dubious annuity/insurance/investment combination that went under and took the retirement portfolios of huge numbers of honest folks down with it. Even today the phrase “Baldwin United” sends shudders down the spines of those in the insurance business.

    If my wife and I had to do it all over again we’d buy a good old Mason & Hamlin.

  • Langberace says:

    Steinway in China. More dead African elephants can now be used for music besides increasing the libido and longevity of Chinese men.

  • Ron says:

    “MAY be sold” would be the correct headline. “TO be sold” is simply not accurate, as I presume the author understands by reading the source article. In reality, this deal will not happen, according to people I know at Steinway.

  • Sharon says:

    There was a wonderful Chinese film that came out a couple of years ago, “The Piano in the Factory” about how a group of laid off piano factory workers put together a piano for a child. Have others seen it? It brought tears to my eyes.

  • luigi nonono says:

    This is absolutely horrifying. China is not SAVING classical music, they are STEALING it, like everything else, and they will corrupt and ruin it with their shallow, superficial culture. The other major companies are not up to Steinway’s standard. China is engaged in cultural as well as economic warfare.

  • Ben Kaye says:

    Live by the sword…

  • John Humphreys says:

    Steinway’s varying fortunes over the decades have been a cause for concern. Not large enough to withstand the financial storms nor small enough to enable a highly specialized continuity (Bösendorfer also). An American company for sure but German both in origin and instrument ‘character’ (the American pianos have never enjoyed the professional acclaim of their Hamburg counterparts). The best pianos from virtually all important manufacturers of the past alas. Let’s hope that whoever now runs the company will enable it to recover its former distinction.

  • Trev says:

    Did anyone actually read the article? This Chinese firm is ONE of the many companies,etc that is showing interest.

  • Thomasina says:

    And since this morning, the ad of “Learn Mandarin, Learn Chinese” appears at the top of the page when I open this blog.

    • Doug says:

      I just came back from visiting the local liberal leaning bookstore. I asked the genderconfused clerk with dreadlocks, a rainbow tattoo on his forehead and a huge nose ring: “I’d like a copy of President Trump’s latest book on immigration.”
      He told me “get the f*ck out of here!” I said “yeah, that’s the name of it!”

  • Laurie says:

    Selling off an American cultural icon to China is traitorous, whether it makes money or not. Especially given our current problems with China.

  • Nelson says:

    Among Steinway’s various methods of grasping at straws to try to hang on is the (IMHO) disasterous dismantling of the network of dealers that used to be authorized to sell Steinways. Look around and all you will see are “Steinway Galleries”. Various independent dealers have been shut out completely, and this includes rentals. IF Steinway had ultimately delivered a better product perhaps it perhaps would have been for the best. For rentals this is a really bad situation. The rental prices are often double what they were before, and you MUST use their technicians, which, in my experience, are not nearly as good as the independents. They are also overpriced, and will not make themselves available when needed. For things like competitions this can be a deal breaker. I no longer even recommend one competition I’m involved with to try with them. Considering also that pianos coming out of Steinway these days are not properly “prepped” (in terms of regulation, voicing, etc.) you can’t even say you’re getting a first class instrument. That being the case, you might as well go with a Yamaha or Kawai.

    Also, there’s a “gotcha” even for those faithful customers who own their treasured Steinways. If you want your independent technician/restorer to replace some of the more integral parts of the piano (such as the pin block), they will no longer even sell one to an independent. You must send the piano to New York to do that. This does not apply for hammers or strings and smaller items, but it’s another slap in the face of the industry as a whole. It remains to be seen if this policy extends to institutions. With institutions themselves, there is a hard sell they are trying these days….in exchange for a pittance, they will take away all of a school’s older Steinways and charge millions of $s to provide new pianos. AFAIK, there’s no particular way to choose what you get, which in the case of concert instruments, is certainly a rather large crap-shoot.

    I have also seen some very questionable attempts to blackball those who don’t play nice politically with Steinway’s local “powers that be” regarding the airing of some of these facts I’m imparting. For the purposes of this post, I’m located in Southern North Dakota at Hoople and these are all only my “opinions”.

    • You make some valid and some invalid points. I won’t debate, but have been in the concert piano provision business, as the first and still largest by a huge margin, Hamburg Steinway Concert Grand Piano Purveyor in North America. In fact as I can honestly say,
      “I put the Pro in Piano.” Ricard de La Rosa, President and Co-Founder (1969) Pro Piano

  • Petros Linardos says:

    The front page in the Steinway website has a Lang Lang quote for their Spirio player piano. Otherwise I don’t see any evidence of Lang Lang being the Steinway brand leader.

  • Bill Ecker says:

    Steinway started as a cottage business in Germany. He came to America and started the business in Manhattan, but had already made 482 pianos in Germany.

  • The greatest recording piano is still, and always has been, Hamburg Steinway Model D-274 Bank on it; I have!!!!!