Retirement sounds good to hi-fi firm chief

IVOR Tiefenbrun, managing director of Linn Products, the hi-fi equipment maker to superstar customers such as Sharon Stone and David Bowie, is grooming company secretary Peter Murphy for the top job at the firm he has run for 32 years.

Tiefenbrun, however, is looking longer term in his succession plans, and Murphy himself may be succeeded by Tiefenbrun’s son Gilad, who is Linn’s head of design and engineering.

Murphy and Gilad Tiefenbrun have just been appointed to Linn’s board along with Gilad’s older brother, Natan, who is managing director of the broking arm of Instinet, a division of Reuters.

Ivor Tiefenbrun, whose company employs 400 in Glasgow, said the expanded board would make succession easier to plan. He said: "At some point I envisage moving to a chairing role, and then relinquishing that.

"The obvious successor in the short term is Peter Murphy. It might be in the longer term that Gilad would become managing director."

Tiefenbrun declined to say when he would give up the managing director’s role, but hinted that it would be within the next two or three years.

"I am going to be 59 next birthday. Sixty is the retirement age. I am not one of these people who wants to hold on until the very end.

"Over the past eight years I have delegated more and more responsibility. This [set of appointments] is a further step to ensure the company’s future."

Murphy, 46, was appointed company secretary in 1998 and has a role similar to a chief operating officer, liaising between the senior board and the management team.

Linn has diversified in recent years from building traditional home stereo equipment to systems for luxury cars and boats. Its products, which cost up to 250,000 for a complete system, can be found on the new Aston Martin Vanquish and on golfer Greg Norman’s 70m yacht.

Tiefenbrun recently increased his control over Linn by exchanging shares in Castle Precision Engineering, a firm controlled by his brother Marcus, for some of Marcus’s shares in Linn. Ivor now holds about 60% of Linn shares, while his brother retains a non-executive directorship.

He said: "Up to now, we have made decisions in a very casual way. We have to have a more complete board structure. A stronger board will be a good sounding board for the management team."

Despite planning to give up his day-to-day involvement with Linn, Tiefenbrun said he did not intend to sell his shares. "I have never regarded the business as a tradeable commodity," he said.

Tiefenbrun, a former Scottish entrepreneur of the year, said his next move would be into charity work or teaching. He plans to get together a group to raise funds to tackle diseases of the digestive system, which he thinks receive too little research and media attention.

He said: "Next year there will be a big push to raise funds for these diseases. They are amazingly prevalent, but in Scotland nobody is doing anything."

He also works for Strathclyde University, and is keen to spend more time spreading the engineering gospel, although he has no plans to enter politics.

In September Linn was identified as Scotland’s only leading "cool brand" by Superbrands. Tiefenbrun said Linn had made a "modest" profit on turnover of about 30m in the year to October 2004, roughly in line with last year’s results.

He has divided Linn into four main product areas - home hi-fi, home cinema, multiroom systems and luxury vehicles - as a hedge against declines in any particular sector.