The business press focused its attention this week on something that all of us in hearing healthcare already know: hearing aids and hearing aid companies are valuable.
An August 23 article in Bloomberg titled, “The Sound of Money: Demand for Hearing Aids Creates Billionaires”, by Benjamin Stupples focuses on three families that have made their fortunes in the hearing aid industry, including:
- Amplifon SpA Chair Susan Carol Holland who owns 44.9% of the Milan-based company through her family’s holding company worth about $2.3 billion. Holland is a speech therapist and the daughter of Amplifon Founder Algernon Charles Holland, a WWII English war hero who started Amplifon in 1950.
- Starkey Founder William (Bill) Austin, who is CEO of the world’s largest privately held hearing aid company (assuming that the recent Widex-Sivantos merger is approved). Although Austin’s net worth was not mentioned in the article, both Forbes and Bloomberg currently estimates it at about $2.6 billion.
- Brothers Hans-Ueli and the late Andy Rihs, who died in April, were large shareholders in Phonak AG, along with their business partner Beda Diethelm. The company is now Sonova Holding AG in Stäfa, Switzerland, the largest hearing aid company in the world by revenue. Bloomberg reports Hans-Ueli Rihs owns 5.7% of Sonova, accounting for about half of his net worth of $1.1 billion. Andy Rihs, who had been chair and CEO of the company, owned a 3% stake in the company worth $320 million at the time of his death.
Another article in the August 25 Minneapolis Star Tribune by Neal St Anthony was titled “IntriCon’s reincarnation has made it Minnesota’s best stock to own since 2017,” and reported that the company’s stock has gone from $6 per share in 2016 to $67 this week—giving IntriCon a market value of over $525 million. One of its founding executives, CEO Mark Gorder, a long-time hearing industry executive and electrical engineer, recently sold 177,308 shares, and still retains 450,000 shares worth around $30 million. It should be acknowledged that Gorder, who is 71 and a 40-year industry veteran, had never sold a share in the company until this month, with St Anthony noting, “That’s called getting rich very slowly…” IntriCon is a leader in developing and manufacturing of economy hearing aids and PSAPs, owns Hearing Help Express, and produces hearing aids for UnitedHealth’s hi HealthInnovations and earVenture, among many others. It also produces microelectronics for the medical technology industry for large customers like Medtronics. The company, which had sales gains of 30% in 2017, continues to add capacity, and Gorder is quoted in the article as saying IntriCon is an “overnight success story…that took about 10 years to reinvent.”