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The company owned by a university

Back then, she was very close to her idol of today.

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The company owned by a university

Back then, she was very close to her idol of today. "Doctor Bose", as Lila Snyder still calls him, taught acoustics at the elite Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston during her studies in the 1990s. Snyder - one of the very few women on the master's degree in engineering - could have been his student. "Unfortunately, his course wasn't part of my main studies," she recalls with a smile. "I think that's a shame today."

Because meanwhile Lila Snyder has started, Dr. Defending Evil's legacy. As managing director, she steers the company founded by Amar Bose in the 1960s in difficult times. The audio specialist Bose is world-renowned for its headphones and speakers with particularly clear sound.

But the competition in the market for good sound is growing - from Apple products to colorful lifestyle brands like Beats. Bose sales have plummeted by a quarter since 2019, from four to just three billion dollars in the 2022 fiscal year just ended.

The company does not publish earnings figures, nor does it have to, as it is privately owned. The founder, Amar Bose, who died in 2013, gave over the majority of the company to his alma mater, MIT, while he was still alive. The institute has no say in day-to-day business and is never allowed to sell the shares, but it benefits from the profits.

Appointing foundations as successors is also a well-known practice in Germany. The world's largest automotive supplier Bosch, for example, belongs to a charitable foundation that enjoys financial benefits – also without voting rights. The founders or their successors have also given shares to foundations at the media group Bertelsmann, the automotive supplier ZF Friedrichshafen, the optics specialist Carl Zeiss and the drugstore chain Dm.

"The transfer makes sense if you want the company to continue to exist independently in the long term - i.e. not to be sold," says Nadine Kammerlander, head of the Institute for Family Businesses at the WHU Business School in Vallendar.

In three typical cases, a company becomes a foundation company: "The entrepreneurs have no children, they want to protect the company from the children, or they want to protect the children from the company." Case number three may sound strange, but it happens more often: " Many do not want the children to feel the burden and burden of having to take over the line.”

Amar Bose didn't need to protect his son. After studying at MIT, he became a successful entrepreneur himself with his telecommunications company Vadu. Others should therefore benefit from Bose Senior's life's work: the researchers at the institute that paved the way for father and son.

"Dr. Bose's legacy gives our company what so many are looking for today: purpose," says CEO Lila Snyder today. The 50-year-old landed in Berlin from Boston a few hours ago and is sitting in jeans and a gray Bose T-shirt under a black jacket in the library of the "Waldorf Astoria" hotel.

She wears her dark hair open, little make-up, only her fingernails are painted red – otherwise no frills. A friendly, down to earth woman, determined and with a sharp mind. She speaks ready for the press, even in the background conversation.

"We are a company with the legacy of a brilliant engineer, founder and innovator who loved music," she says. His spirit and passion lived on. However, no longer in exclusive stores: Shortly before the start of the Corona crisis, Bose had closed its flagship stores in Europe and the USA.

Certainly a stroke of luck in terms of time – but not without risk for the brand. Potential buyers in Germany can still view the headphones and boxes in Mediamarkt today. But he didn't necessarily attract luxury customers with advertising slogans like "We can only do it cheaply".

Now it should be possible to convey the mix of luxury, lifestyle and high-tech that previously justified high prices on the Internet. The latest product - earphones that scan the user's ear canals with sound waves in order to block out background noise even better and play the sound more clearly - is said to cost 299 euros on the German market, as much as Apple's iPods. A proud price, especially in times of crisis.

6,000 people work at Bose today, most of them in Boston. Three years ago there were still around 9,000. "We belong to a university, but in operational terms we are a normal company with the pressure to make money," says Snyder. There is no room for sentimentality. It's about costs and benefits, about efficiency and the right priorities.

Professor Nadine Kammerlander calls this good "governance". Only if the purpose of the foundation is chosen wisely, competencies are clearly distributed and the company can constantly adapt to changing conditions can a company in the hands of a foundation be future-proof.

It is also important: Who makes the personnel decisions? At Bose, that's the board of directors. After three men at the top, he chose Lila Snyder as boss a good two years ago. Previously she was a partner at management consultancy McKinsey for many years and ran the e-commerce business at public office equipment manufacturer Pitney Bowes.

The chairman of the supervisory board, Bob Maresca, said that the company had not simply found the next qualified person, but the “absolutely best person”. Snyder's background, experience and values ​​would have won.

This includes clarity and setting priorities. This is how she organized her family life. Her children are 13, 16 and 19 years old, her husband has the main responsibility at home. "I believe in choice," says Snyder. “I free up time for things that are important to me with my children.” For example, for dinner together. She used to read bedtime stories afterwards. So she left the house early in the morning.

At sporting events on the weekends, she tries to be there. On the other hand, she did not choose birthdays during the week as her priorities. It is too difficult to keep these days free of appointments and business trips. "We celebrate birthdays the following Saturday, always have."

The early morning belongs to the manager alone. In the summer, when it's already light, she sometimes goes for a walk with her two huskies at 5:30 a.m. Otherwise she gets on her stepper or fitness bike and pedals. "Then I've done something before life gets in the way," says Snyder.

Her job at Bose, that's for sure, will be a long-distance run. Snyder has to steer the company through the current crisis, including consumer reluctance to buy. In addition, she is working on, as she says, to position herself more broadly among suppliers - many important parts still come from China. And she tries to find new customers for her products. In the summer, Bose started a cooperation with Lexie, an American manufacturer of hearing aids.

Snyder doesn't have to justify himself to a family of entrepreneurs. But she has a double mission: Dr. To live up to Bose's legacy and support research.

"Everything on shares" is the daily stock exchange shot from the WELT business editorial team. Every morning from 7 a.m. with the financial journalists from WELT. For stock market experts and beginners. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Amazon Music and Deezer. Or directly via RSS feed.

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