Maker of Fender guitars to sell stock

Richard Drew/Associated Press/File 2008
Steve Winwood (left) and Eric Clapton played Fender guitars at a 2008 concert in New York’s Madison Square Garden.

NEW YORK - Fender Musical Instruments Corp., the maker of legendary guitars strummed by the likes of Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton, filed papers Thursday for a $200 million initial public offering.

Founded in 1946 by Leo Fender, the company created the Telecaster and Stratocaster guitars in the 1950s.

The “Strat,’’ a favorite of Hendrix and others, went on sale in 1954. It had a sturdy, all-wood body that could stand up to repeated abuse, making it popular in the rock world.


Fender said it is the country’s biggest seller of electric, acoustic, and bass guitars. It also makes amplifiers and banjos, ukuleles, and mandolins. It sells instruments under other brands such as Squier, Jackson, Guild, Ovation, and Latin Percussion.

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Fender had several owners before making its push to the public markets. In 1965, Leo Fender sold the company to CBS Inc., which sold it to an investor group 20 years later. Private equity firm Weston Presidio now owns 43 percent of Fender. Fender’s distributor in Japan, Yamano Music, holds the number two stake, with 14 percent of the company.

The IPO will help Fender pay down debt of $246.2 million. Fender said it plans to use about $100 million of the proceeds to repay debt.

Fender said revenue could get a boost from growing interest in guitar-based music in emerging markets like China, India, and Indonesia. But the popularity of other types of music, such as rap, could hurt demand for its guitars.