What's in a Name?

A lot of profit, if you're talking about trusted names in consumer electronics. But some of those reassuring brands we grew up with - RCA, AT&T, Westinghouse, and Polaroid - bear no relation to the American companies we associate them with. In many cases, it's Chinese companies looking to make inroads into the lucrative U.S. market, where branding is everything.

In the case of RCA, the buyer is another well-known American company, Audiovox, which this week signed a definitive agreement to buy the RCA audio/video business from France's Thomson. Thomson bought the RCA trademark in the late '80s, a year after General Electric had acquired RCA (including its broadcast business) and replaced the famous red RCA neon letters with GE atop Rockefeller Center in New York City.

For its $19.7 million, Audiovox gets the revered RCA brand for audio and video products. That's a coup for the Hauppauge, NY-based company on the brink of the U.S. transition to digital TV. After all, it was RCA that started the last revolution in television when it invented color TV in 1954. The deal includes RCA A/V products for the U.S., Canada, China, and Hong Kong markets and is expected to generate $150 million in revenue for Audiovox.

The agreement is the second involving the RCA brand for Audiovox, which snared the RCA accessories rights earlier this year in a deal valued at nearly $60 million. That acquisition brought Audiovox a host of other well-known brands, too: Recoton, Acoustic Research, Jensen, Advent, and Discwasher. -Rebecca Day