Frank Sterns says he didn’t want to regret missing an opportunity to take a full summer vacation in Europe this year. He informed dealers and reps on Monday evening that he was stepping down as Niles Audio president after 18 years with the company.
Frank Sterns is leaving Niles Audio, but plans to return to the CI channel after this summer.
Sterns said that his decision was not an indictment of Mark Terry, who was hired recently to serve as president of a new audio, video, and control group, as yet unnamed, consisting of Niles, Xantech, and ELAN Home Systems, and that parent company Nortek fully supported his decision.
Terry’s hiring, however, provided a unique opportunity for Sterns to take a summer sabbatical.
“For me it seems like just the right set of circumstances to go do something that I’ve wanted to do since I was very young,” Sterns said. “And it’s no reflection on Nortek or Linear; they’ve been very good to me.”
Sterns said that he is not yet aware of plans for the company, but noted that Niles is a very strong company with great people and will be in the capable hands of its interim president, Terry, and 12-year veteran Mike Detmer. “Mark Terry is very capable and certainly Mike knows everything about this business,” he said.
When asked to reflect on his legacy at Niles Audio, Sterns said he wanted to be remembered for having built the most successful brand in the CI space and for having developed several people who succeeded at Niles and in other organizations in the industry. He’s also proud of the processes that he’s built during his years at the helm of the company, including much of its product roadmap, business processes, and dealer programs, even as they’ve inspired other companies to borrow from them.
“I always love it when I look at something that I can see was inspired by something that I did 10 years ago or even last month, and at first I go ‘but they’re copying my stuff!’ Sterns said. “Then I realize that it’s cool that they think so highly of it. It looks like Niles or it sounds like Niles or the programs are like Niles, or it’s marketed or branded like Niles. That’s very gratifying.”
As for his sabbatical, Sterns is taking his time off to further pursue his winemaking hobby and to travel Europe with his bicycle, before returning to the U.S, in time for a west coast visit and a trip to CEDIA EXPO in Atlanta.
He’ll begin his summer vacation in Italy, traveling by bike through Tuscany, then on to Piedmont to watch wine barrels being made and to stay in a castle. Then he’s planning to visit Provence, France, to see his wine maker, ride his bike some more, and do some wine tasting. After that, he’s headed to the coast of Prava in Spain to meet some of his friends before riding the back half of the Tour de France route through the Pirinis. Then its on to Prague and Vienna (where he’s bottling his 2008 wine), before heading back to the U.S., where he will motorcycle up the Pacific Coast to see friends in Seattle and then back home to Miami before heading to CEDIA in September.
“I’ve got a really cool summer vacation planned,” Sterns said.
Though he plans to return to the industry, Sterns is not exactly sure yet what that will mean. “This business is in my blood,” he said. “I don’t have anything lined up, but I know I’m going to miss this.”