Steinway & Sons: Buying a Legend (2001) Harvard Business School Case (Gourville and Lassiter)
It is 1995 and Steinway & Sons has just been purchased by two young entrepreneurs. For 140 years, Steinway has held the reputation for making the finest quality grand pianos in the world. The past 25 years have proven to be a challenge, however. First, the company has changed hands several times and product quality has become a concern. Second, the worldwide market for pianos has been in a steady decline, and competition for high-end grand pianos has increased. Finally in 1992, Steinway took the questionable steps of introducing a mid-priced line of grand pianos under the brand name “Boston.” Designed by Steinway, but manufactured by a Japanese piano maker, the Boston line represented a major shift in strategy for the company. Within this context, what do two young entrepreneurs (with little or no experience in the piano industry) hope to accomplish in buying Steinway? In particular, what value do they bring to the company and what decisions should they make?