Meade Instruments, a company familiar to any backyard astronomer who’s drooled over their telescopes, has filed for bankruptcy. The company has fallen on hard times in recent years, as they’ve faced increasing competition. Meade also recently lost a lawsuit, which pushed them over the edge into bankruptcy.
The company is based in Irvine, California, and was founded in 1972. They started out selling small refracting telescopes. They expanded into Newtonian reflectors and Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes over the years. Now, they sell telescope models worth upwards of $10,000.
Meade is a subsidiary of Chinese company Ningbo Sunny Electronics Co. Ningbo purchased Meade in 2013. Another company, Orion Telescopes and Binoculars, filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Ningbo, claiming that Ningbo and Meade were part of a price-fixing scheme and that they tried to force competitors out of the market. Meade and their parent company lost that lawsuit, and a jury found Meade liable for $16.8 million.
Meade has filed for bankruptcy claiming they have debts between $10 million and $50 million.
The life of large companies like Meade is punctuated with legal actions. They’ve scuffled in the courts with telescope maker Celestron over patent-infringement, and with other companies over claims of false-advertising.
Chapter 11 Protection gives a company an opportunity to be sold or to reorganize and restructure its debt. The goal is usually to keep the company alive and develop a plan to repay its creditors over time.
Today it was reported that Meade will try to sell itself through a court-supervised sale process. According to Bloomberg Law, Meade has reached out to Force 10 Partners, a firm specializing in “corporate restructuring, challenged businesses, litigation, and other special situations” as they say on their website.
The exact future timeline for Meade is unclear, but on December 6th they posted this brief statement on Facebook:
Many people have long experience with Meade telescopes, and the company has a long history of innovation. They seem to have lots of loyal customers. Whether these legal troubles spell the end for Meade is unknown, but many of their customers are hoping they stay in business. If a new owner steps up, who knows how things might turn out.