Last week, Horizon Hobby, the US-based hobby manufacturer (and owner of several brands including Losi and Spektrum) as well as huge distributor to model shops in the US, announced they were being sold to an investor group led by their current CEO.

They stressed in their press release that shops and customers should see a seamless transition as the company moves from an employee-owned firm into a ‘management-led acquisition’ and so far there’s no reason to believe that there’s anything else to the story. This could be a case of the company taking action to secure it’s future growth as we have seen from HPI Racing in recent years.

However, does this have further implications down the line for things like their dedicated racing and performance brands like TLR? We’ve already seen top UK racer Darren Bloomfield announce Nemo and Schumacher as his new sponsors, as well as 1:12 racing legend David Spashett’s departure.  We’ve also heard that TLR are going to be seriously reducing their North American team, with rumours continuing to persist that TLR main-stay (and winner of virtually everything in 1/8th except the World Championships!) Mike Truhe seemingly not continuing with the brand into 2014.  TLR have also lost the driver that was probably their “number 2” US electric off-road racer as Matt Castellano announced a move to Kyosho in late November.

Horizon also took a notable step back from their support of the well-known Euro Off-Road Series this year.  Previously a title sponsor, and regularly flying one or two of their American superstars to each event of the series, this year they have scaled back to being (one of six) ‘Primary’ sponsors, with no indications so far that they will be supporting their team drivers in attending.  OK, that’s a relatively minor example, but perhaps indicates that Horizon (and their TLR and Spektrum brands) were already beginning to scale back their European level involvement anyway.

Generally speaking, whilst the ‘Factory Team’ drivers for any brand grab the headlines on dedicated RC News websites, their funding doesn’t often come from the sales of the race kits they promote.  The race team budget is largely propped up by the ‘fun’ or RTR products the brand sells.  The new owners may well determine that the race team is an area where a sizable amount of money could be saved – and that would be a business decision, rather than an indication of results.

From the outside looking on 2013 looked like a pretty turbulent year in general for Horizon with notable departure of former Losi President Bill Jeric, stating it was not his choice to leave. This came only a few months after the departure of vice presedent of ‘Surface Marketing’ Shawn Ireland – Now heading up LRP America (Which is some welcome news of expansion, bucking the trend of this admittedly gloomy article!)

But this is not just about Horizon, it seems likely we haven’t seen the last effects of the ‘global economic downturn’ in our little (in terms of worldwide markets) hobby industry. Even RC giant Traxxas, following a few years of high profile marketing with TV advertisements seem to be battening down the hatches, apparently backing out of their Supercross sponsorship deal and possibly down-scaling their big budget promo activities …so possibly it remains to be seen what sort of ripples this will have with other, smaller RC companies.

Horizon owns…well, a few RC brands you may have heard of:

  • ECX
  • Vaterra
  • Losi
  • Team Losi Racing
  • Spektrum

Oh, and these flight RC brands as well:

  • Hobby Zone
  • E-Flight
  • Blade
  • UMX
  • Mosquito
  • Pheonix Simulator Software

Recognize any of those names? They’re also a distributor of major brand names like Thunder Power, Venom and many other brands around North America.

We’d love to hear more from Horizon about their plans and would welcome them getting in touch to give us their perspective!

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