In 1933, Leon Packard and Herbert Bell formed Packard Bell. They made quality radios that eventually were in demand from the United States military during World War II. They later went on to make great televisions. Leon and Herb didn’t name the company so that consumers would think of Hewlett-Packard or Bell Telephones. But those potential associations may nevertheless have burnished the brand’s reputation. Of course, first and foremost, they made a quality product.
However, time goes by. Founders age and die. Sales plateau or even start to decline. The Packard Bell brand survives today after changing hands many times. Not all of the products the name has been bound to enhanced that good reputation. Nevertheless, the name still has value. It lives on. This is their story.
The Good Old Days
Herbert Bell was a businessman who had previously worked for Zenith Radio Corporation, while Leon Packard was an engineer who had worked for the National Broadcasting Company (NBC). The two men met in the early 1930s and decided to start a company together, which they named Packard Bell.
During World War II, Packard Bell was contracted by the U.S. military to produce radio equipment for the war effort. After the war, the company continued to focus on radio and television production, and in the 1950s, became one of the largest manufacturers of televisions in the United States.
Packard Bell has changed ownership several times over the years. Here is a brief overview of the company’s ownership history:
1933-1968: Packard Bell was owned and operated by its founders, Herbert Bell and Leon Packard.
1968-1986: Packard Bell was acquired by Teledyne, a conglomerate that owned a wide range of companies in industries such as aerospace, electronics, and energy. Teledyne owned Packard-Bell until 1986, when it sold the company to a group of investors led by Beny Alagem.
1986-1996: Beny Alagem and his partners owned Packard Bell for a decade, during which time the company expanded into personal computers and became one of the leading PC manufacturers in the United States.
1996-2000: Packard Bell was acquired by NEC Corporation, a Japanese electronics company. Under NEC’s ownership, Packard Bell continued to operate as a separate brand, but struggled to compete with other PC manufacturers.
2000-2008: A group of investors led by John Hui purchased Packard Bell from NEC and restructured the company. Packard Bell focused on the European market and expanded into new areas such as consumer electronics and home appliances.
Post 2008: Acer Inc., a Taiwanese electronics company, acquired Packard Bell in 2008. Packard Bell became a subsidiary of Acer and continued to produce affordable computers and other electronics products. Today, Packard Bell is primarily known for its laptops, desktops, and all-in-one PCs.
It was the acquisition of Packard Bell in 1986 by Beny Alagem and partners that began to undermine its reputation for quality. Their operation was essentially a start-up, which made IBM PC clones. Benefitting from the Packard Bell name, large sales were made via mail-order. To keep up with demand, the company began using cheaper parts – often recycled. This resulted in breakdowns and product returns.
During that boom in PC sales, a Packard Bell manufacturing facility was created in Sacramento, California. It was located on the former McClellan Air Force Base. This was one of the first conversions of old military bases for private industry. Packard Bell’s Sacramento plant produced a range of computer products, including desktops, laptops, and monitors. The plant was one of the company’s largest manufacturing facilities and employed hundreds of workers.
By the time NEC came along, the Packard Bell name had already become somewhat tarnished. NEC, and later Acer, have worked to restore its good name. However, most Packard Bell sales these days are in foreign markets.
- Year Started: 1933
- Year Ended: 2099
- Origin Of Name: Names of Founders
- Location Sales: Worldwide
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: Acer
- Owner Original: Leon Packard and Herbert Bell
- Owner While In Use: Many
- Owner Successor: Acer
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Acer
- Naics Code: 334111
- Location Headquarters: Taipei, Taiwan