Known primarily for being one of the world's top guitar makers, Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC) is a privately-owned company, with headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona. Leo Fender founded the company in Fullerton, California in 1946. Andy Mooney has been the chief executive officer (CEO) of Fender since 2015. Mooney was the former chairman of Disney Consumer Products. In addition to the popular guitar models produced under the Fender brand, such as the Stratocaster, Telecaster, and Precision Bass, the company also produces a wide variety of guitars, musical instruments, and musical equipment through the other companies that it has acquired, including EVH Guitars, Gretsch, Charvel Guitars, Jackson Guitars, and Squier.

Key Takeaways

  • Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC) is a privately-owned American company that manufactures stringed instruments and amplifiers.
  • Fender Musical Instruments Corporation also produces a wide variety of guitars, musical instruments, and musical equipment through other companies that it has acquired, such as EVH Guitars, Gretsch, Charvel Guitars, Jackson Guitars, and Squier.
  • In January 2020, after a decade of joint ownership, Servco Pacific Co. acquired TPG Growth's shares in Fender, and after a sale and a new purchase agreement, Servco became the new majority owner of the company.

EVH Guitars

Fender's EVH brand is legendary rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen's personal product line of electric guitars, amps, and accessories. Every model and piece of equipment produced under the EVH label is meant to reproduce Van Halen's unique sound. With original artwork designed by Van Halen, the EVH Striped Series is designed to mimic the look and sound of the guitars that he played during the 1980s. Van Halen was known for tinkering with his amplifiers, and EVH amps are designed to produce the same sound that Van Halen spent years attempting to achieve. EVH equipment is manufactured at Fender's facility in Corona, California.

Gretsch

German immigrant Friedrich Gretsch founded Gretsch in Brooklyn, New York in 1883. The company enjoyed great success producing banjos, tambourines, and drums until Gretsch's death in 1895. Gretsch's son, Fred Gretsch Sr., took over the company, expanding its facilities and production until Gretsch became known as one of the prominent manufacturers of American musical instruments. The company now produces drum kits, mandolins, ukuleles, guitars, bass guitars, steel guitars, and amplifiers. Currently, most Gretsch musical instruments are manufactured in East Asia.

In 2002, Gretsch entered an agreement that granted Fender-exclusive rights to develop, produce, market, and distribute Gretsch guitars worldwide. The brand's electric guitars have a classic style and a long history in country music; one of its most popular models is named after country artist Chet Atkins. Gretsch enjoyed a resurgence in the 1980s with the popularity of the rockabilly group The Stray Cats, whose leader, Brian Setzer, also has a line of guitars with Gretsch.

Charvel Guitars

Wayne Charvel worked at Fender for three years in the early 1970s and started Charvel's Guitar Repair in 1974. His custom finishes, repairs, and upgrades earned his shop in Southern California a solid reputation among musicians, and he began building complete electric guitars. He eventually sold the company to Grover Jackson in 1978.

Under Jackson, the Charvel brand rose to prominence. Jackson convinced many of the most popular rock guitarists of the 1980s–such as Van Halen, Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi and Vinnie Vincent of Kiss–to play Charvel guitars. At the height of the company’s success, Jackson sold Charvel to a Japanese manufacturer in 1989, and Fender purchased Charvel in 2002.

Jackson Guitars

Jackson guitars, also created by Grover Jackson, are considered the wilder, high-performance alternatives to its more traditional cousins sold under the Charvel brand. Featuring bold, bright designs, Jackson guitars became the instruments of choice for many 1980s heavy metal guitarists, such as Phil Collen of Def Leppard, Phil Demmel of Machine Head, and David Ellefson and Chris Broderick of Megadeth. Jackson guitars have evolved over time. The company has claimed that it is the longest-operating true custom guitar shop in the United States, with many of its original staff still producing high-quality instruments. Fender acquired the Jackson brand along with its 2002 purchase of Charvel.

Squier

Produced and marketed to be inexpensive guitars for beginner players, Squier guitars represent the lower end of Fender's vast array of instruments. While Fender's other brands have electric guitars that cost well into the thousands of dollars, many Squier models can be found for under $200. Under the Squier brand, Fender makes less expensive versions of its popular Stratocaster and Telecaster models, among others. Originally a string manufacturing company for violins, banjos, and guitars, Fender acquired Squier in 1965 and began producing Squier guitars in 1982.

Fender Acquisitions and Partnerships

In addition to the five aforementioned companies, Fender has also acquired numerous other brands, including Guild Guitar Company, Sunn Amplifier Company, SWR Sound Corporation, Tacoma Guitars, and Kaman Music Corporation, among others. Most recently, in January 2019, Fender acquired the Bigsby Electric Guitar Company.

In January 2020, after a decade of joint ownership, Servco Pacific Co. acquired TPG Growth's shares in Fender, and after a sale and purchase agreement, Servco became the new majority owner of the company.