FI V E M INUTE S W ITH
THOMAS RIPSAM CEO, C.F. Martin & Co.
By Brian Berk After a thorough six-month-long interview process, Thomas Ripsam was recently named CEO of C.F. Martin & Co., following in the footsteps of the tremendously successful Chris Martin IV, who retired from the company after a 35year career (but who will stay on as chairman). We met with Ripsam at Summer NAMM to find out what qualities won out in terms of getting the job, his management style, and taking over a company that is anything but broken.
The Music & Sound Retailer: Let’s start by telling us about your career and background. Thomas Ripsam: I grew up in Germany, and I developed a passion for guitars and music very early on. I started to play in my teens, and since then, guitars have been with me forever. I also collect them. I also have had a career in business. For the last 25 years, I was a consultant working with companies in consumer retail and 32
technology to help them grow and continuously improve. The third thing I wanted to mention is, I am a very strong believer in family. I have four children. I met my wife 31 years ago. We have been married for a long time. To me, the Martin opportunity allowed me to combine all of these three things. Passion for music, passion for business and passion for family are really important to me. Martin has always been a family business. I love that.
The Retailer: How did you first find out the C.F. Martin job was available? Ripsam: As you know, Chris [Martin] announced his upcoming retirement last year. It was actually two retirements from chairman of NAMM and CEO of Martin. I found out about the opportunity late last year. I was at a point in my career when I frankly wanted to find an opportunity to better combine my passions. I wanted to get more into music and the music space while also bringing in my business background. The Martin opportunity came up, and I got involved in the process. It was a competitive process. There were multiple candidates. It took six months to get through it, and it worked out in the end. I
felt very comfortable with the company and the people I met during my visits. I felt this was the place to be.
The Retailer: How did you end up the victor in the end? What separated you from the competition? Ripsam: I think the passion for guitars was a big thing. My wife always says I am obsessed with guitars. I play and collect guitars, and I am not only talking about acoustic guitars. I play electric, acoustic, bass and other string instruments. I also think my personal DNA and leadership style is very people focused. It is participatory. I believe in the power of people and teams. I think that fits with the Martin culture. I think that was critical. Last but not least, I think the mix of having worked in consumer goods was important. I understand the manufacturing environment. I understand the retail environment, working in specialty retail. I have also worked a lot with high-tech companies. I think this mix has a lot of relevance regarding what Martin is facing in terms of the environment. In terms of consumers, the bar is being raised. Technology keeps improving. Ultimately, those qualities really made the difference. SEPTEMBER 2021