Planar Vice President and General Manager Scott Hix, who led the team that launched InFocus into the home theater market several years ago, appears to have struck again with Planar’s Home Theater business unit, which he founded last year. While the Planar brand has made some inroads into the custom home electronics market, Planar’s acquisition of Runco International would appear to cement its role as a major player in the market for years to come. Hix took some time to discuss the stunning move with CR Editor-in-Chief Joe Paone.
CR: The first reaction I got from people when I told them about this was, “What?” Shock.
Hix: (laughs) Sure! Nobody knows Planar, why wouldn’t they be?
Take me through why Planar decided to acquire Runco International.
Planar… has forever been the grandfather of display companies here in Portland, Ore. A year and a half ago, we started to transform our corporate strategy to focus it towards more high-end specialty display markets. Two of the three we already had in the business, with our industrial group and our medical group, which are very niche, very specialty display arenas. The third business unit [is] the commercial group, doing common desktop monitors. But when the new CEO came in and brought me in over a year and half ago, we looked at the market and said, “You know, we’ve got a fantastic company—no debt, strong balance sheet, lots of cash in the bank. We’ve got a worldwide supply chain operation, logistics and an engineering infrastructure that isn’t broken. So we don’t need to come in and fix this company. We just need to decide what to do with it strategically.”
When we really started to explore the specialty display markets available to us out there—everything from outdoor signage (the Daktronics-type models) to the digital signage emerging market to high-end home theater, the rear-projection cube business and the command/control space—all hit our hit list of the things we wanted to go possibly do. We also knew we couldn’t do everything. So then it balanced out a year and a half ago to what could we either acquire by leveraging our balance sheet to get into, or [what] could we actually organically develop.