Interview: Gibson CEO JC Curleigh on his vision for Gibson’s future

“We are focusing on the future and off to a fresh start.”

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UPDATE (25/1): We snuck in a quick chat with the new CEO at NAMM 2019 to find out about his plans for the guitar giant. 

Gibson has announced that its search for a new CEO to replace longtime head honcho Henry Juszkiewicz is over, and that former Levi’s president of global brands, James ‘JC’ Curleigh, will take over at the guitar giant on 1 November.

The news comes only a few weeks after a Delaware court approved Gibson’s Chapter 11 restructuring plans, and marks the end of Juszkiewicz’s long and sometimes controversial time in charge of the Nashville-based firm, which began all the way back in 1986. That reign ended in widely publicised turmoil, but with Curleigh now at the helm, Gibson will be looking to enter a new era, with the new management team promising to develop the brand while also ensuring that Gibson’s reputation for quality and innovation is maintained, all while keeping the books balanced, of course.

“As a musician, I have always treasured my Gibson guitars and I have the utmost respect for the iconic Gibson brand and those who choose to play Gibson guitars,” Curleigh said in a statement. “Gibson has been a pioneer of craftsmanship and innovation in musical instruments and has been synonymous with shaping the sounds of generations and genres for more than 100 years. I am very honoured to play a leading role with this iconic brand.”

Curleigh is a newcomer to the musical instruments industry, but is a keen guitar player who says he’s recently added a 60s J-45 to his collection. He’s spent the majority of his career leading sportswear brands such as Salomon and KEEN before joining Levi Strauss in 2012, during which time he re-established the iconic American denim brand as a global commercial and cultural powerhouse, while preserving its heritage and authenticity.

That’s obviously experience that will be hugely relevant as he looks to reinvigorate one of the world’s most iconic and beloved guitar brands. “We are focusing on the future and off to a fresh start, with a strong financial foundation, a committed and experienced new leadership team and new ownership that is equally passionate about the brand,” he said.

Curleigh is one of four key appointments Gibson has announced to complete the new leadership team following KKR taking control of the company. Joining him are Cesar Gueikian as chief merchant officer, Kim Mattoon as chief financial officer, and Christian Schmitz as chief production officer.

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