Gibson Brands, makers of legendary guitars, mandolins, banjos and other instruments, filed for bankruptcy protection Tuesday, a move designed to keep the company afloat while it tries to fix its finances.
The Nashville-based company, founded in 1894, will refocus on its core business – making and selling instruments – and shed some of its sideline businesses that have hurt its bottom line.
According to Bloomberg News, the company owes creditors about $500 million. Some of those creditors will lend the company up to $135 million to prevent it from closing. The application must be approved by a federal bankruptcy judge.
While Gibson’s Les Paul electric guitars share the stage with Fender guitars in many genres of plugged-in music, its acoustic guitars never gained much of a foothold in bluegrass. But its mandolins, Dobros and banjos have long been wildly popular among bluegrassers at all levels.
The move is unlikely to get Gibson back in the banjo business, but will allow manufacturing of mandolins and Dobros to continue for the foreseeable future.
Keeping the company afloat could lead to a milestone celebration on July 9, 2023. That’s the 100th anniversary of the day Gibson luthier Lloyd Loar signed a Gibson F5 mandolin with serial number 73987. That became perhaps the best-known mandolin in the world, played by Bill Monroe. The same day, Lohr signed the first of his F5 “Ferns.” Loar-signed mandolins from 1923 and 1924 today command six-figure prices.