SONICblue Mulls Chapter 11

Personal video recorders (PVRs) may be hot technology, but SONICblue's business is as cold as Lake Superior in February. On March 19, the Santa Clara, CA owner of the ReplayTV, Go Video, and Rio brands announced it was mulling Chapter 11 reorganization. For its fourth fiscal quarter, SONICblue posted a $33.4 million net loss, with a 16% drop in sales, a total of $66.99 million.

SONICblue has been mired in protracted copyright infringement litigation brought by major TV networks over the capability of ReplayTV PVRs to transmit time-shifted programs over the Internet. Rio MP3 players were the electronics industry's first headphone/player combination, and survived a legal attack from the music industry. GoVideo makes dual-deck VCRs, DVD players, DVD/VCR combo players, and inexpensive home theater systems.

The bankruptcy is a move toward the sale of the three subsidiaries—with GoVideo likely to be sold to Opta Systems, a subsidiary of investment firm Carmco, for approximately $12.5 million. SONICblue's sales of its subsidiaries would have to be approved by a US bankruptcy court.

ReplayTV and Rip could possibly go to Japanese firm D&M Holdings, parent company of Denon and Marantz. On March 21, Tokyo-based D&M issued a press release setting forth its intention to acquire SONICblue's ReplayTV and Rio units for $40 million, less approximately $5 million of assumed liabilities. D&M stated that it has not reached a formal agreement with SONICblue and that there's no certainty that the deal will go through. In mid March, D&M Holdings announced plans to buy venerable American audio maker McIntosh.