CX has a long history of calling things as we see them, supported by available facts. But it was no surprise that Hills Limited, the troubled and once great Australian industrial company cancelled their advertising with Juliusmedia late in February.
Hills have made some appalling decisions over the past five years and continue to do so. They have a siege mentality not in line with modern business and continue to do their suffering shareholders an injustice.
Some previously unpublished examples include the reboot of Australian Monitor. Hills invited CX to Melbourne to talk to the team in charge of this, their house audio brand. Having continually lost audio brands since the ill-fated and poorly thought out acquisition of Audio Products Group, the board had discovered they had a brand that would never quit on them – because they owned it.
We wrote a nice story about the history of Australian Monitor, and during the discussions Australian Monitor manager Shane Myers pointed out they rely on the human knowledge bank of Greg Hicks, who worked in the Sydney service dept. Greg was at Australian Monitor from the beginnings in the mid 1980’s.
Two weeks later Greg Hicks was fired as a cost cutting exercise.
The Australian Monitor episode was pretty well the last communication we had with Hills, other on ENTECH 2017 where they sponsored the lanyards.
We asked to review the L-Acoustics Syva during Spring, and this was facilitated by Gerry Gavros who has now left Hills for Jands, where the L-Acoustics brand ended up.
In August we decided to visit L-Acoustics to see and hear the L-ISA Immersive Audio system and had pretty well zero engagement with Hills when we advised them of this in advance. Once convinced of the revolutionary nature of L-ISA, we again contacted Hills to discuss strategies, and received zero response.
Around September we had multiple sources telling us that Hills had lost, or were losing, the L-Acoustics distribution. Hills did not respond.
All up we had almost no communication with Hills in the second half of last year, while other media were getting releases. The frost was spreading.
In February we reported the wind-up application against Hills by Milestone Systems. We read about it in other media. Our story (link above) covered the disastrous era of Skivvy Ted who the board hired to build value – which didn’t happen. The market value of the firm went into free-fall.
It seemed insane that a public company would let a trade dispute (later thrown out of court, which we reported as soon as we read about it in other media) escalate into a life or death hearing. Things like this affect credit ratings and can trigger consequences with financiers.
Now Hills have pulled the plug on advertising ‘due to the negative articles’, and it would seem Roadshows as well since they are not booked on any of ours this year.
Contrast with our reporting over some years of the ructions and travails at Staging Connections when it was led into a ‘growth through acquisition’ strategy by a ‘master of the universe’ CEO who was then removed by the board. Déjà vu.
The incoming Tony Chamberlain had to fix the mess and it took years to do it. CX reported as things happened, and of course many inside Staging Connections took exception to that. Tony Chamberlain is still there today under the ownership of Freemans (USA). Through these times he was prepared to put an argument and correct anything he thought was wrong. He maintained dialogue with media.
When the sun rose with the Freeman takeover we reported that as well, and now Staging are rarely in our news.
Hills management work different to that.
(Pictured: David Lenz, Managing Director, Hills Limited).