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Properties / Interiors & Decor

The Business Of Furniture — Mergers And Acquisitions

LUXUO unpicks what happens when brands merge or get acquired by other companies to facilitate growth and scale up their businesses.

Mar 12, 2024 | By Joe Lim

The furniture and lighting industry has had its fair share of mergers and acquisitions alongside experiencing massive economic shifts to scale up in different markets and gain industry dominance in recent years. LUXUO presents a handful of large furniture conglomerates that have displayed their “power” when plotting a dominant business strategy.

Herman Miller Purchased HAY

Hay + Herman Miller

Hay + Herman Miller collection launched in 2022. Image: Herman Miller.

In 2019, American giant furniture brand Herman Miller gained a significant footing by purchasing Denmark-based furniture brand HAY, accelerating global growth for the latter. This acquisition also expands Herman Miller’s retail and contract furnishing footprint.

Herman Miller acquired an additional 34 percent equity interest in HAY for approximately USD 78 million. In 2018, Herman Miller acquired a 33 percent equity interest in HAY, which means that the furniture giant now owns a majority 67 percent interest in HAY. Rolf and Mette Hay, co-founders and creative directors of HAY, own the remaining 33 percent of the equity in HAY.

HAY’s established footing in Europe and Asia in contract and residential furnishing markets had caught the attention of Herman Miller. The Scandinavian brand, founded in 2002 in Copenhagen, has proven successful as a fast-growing global company offering a vast roster of high-quality, well-designed furniture and accessories. Its international success will be a transformative addition to the Herman Miller Group family of brands. HAY’s owners Rolf and Mette will still bring innovative product direction and a fresh perspective to modern design. They were named “100 Most Creative People” by Fast Company in 2019.

Herman Miller

Herman Miller Eames Lounger is an icon of Mid-Modern Century design. Image: Herman Miller.

HAY has been introduced to the American market since 2018 in physical locations such as Oregon, California and Illinois.

“Scaling HAY is a key component in expanding our footprint within the retail and contract markets while reaching a younger, more urban demographic that we’ve been targeting for expansion. I’m so proud of the design-first approach HAY has brought to an already exciting family of brands, said Andi Owen, President and CEO of Herman Miller.

“We are pleased to continue and expand HAY’s relationship with Herman Miller, a company whose design heritage has inspired both modern living and Mette and me,” said Rolf Hay. Our partnership with Herman Miller has enabled us to make our high-quality products by top designers accessible to even more people around the world.”

Herman Miller Is Now MillerKnoll

Knoll Barcelona chairs

“Barcelona” chairs designed by Mies van Der Rohe for Knoll. Image: Heal’s UK.

On 19 July 2021, two giants in the American furniture industry took the world by storm. Herman Miller announced its acquisition of Knoll. The formal acquisition makes the combined company own a roster of 19 leading brands, and its footprint comprises 19 leading brands spanning across 100 countries globally. There will be 64 showrooms globally, more than 50 physical stores and global multi-channel eCommerce capabilities. A day later, Herman Miller announced it would move forward as MillerKnoll. This union means MillerKnoll will have a new operating model to ensure strong brand ownership, transforming the industry and redefining modern design.

“We are excited to introduce MillerKnoll, a collective of dynamic brands coming together to design the world we live in,” said Andi Owen, President and Chief Executive Officer of MillerKnoll. “Our industry, and the world in general, are changing rapidly. Design is the way we imagine and shape a better future. In coming together, we will define and lead this transformation, as we have other transformations in our history.”

Knoll Womb Chairs

“Womb” armchairs designed by Eero Saarinen for Knoll. Image:

Herman Miller owns the Eames design pieces, while Knoll is famous for its metal-wire furniture pieces designed by Marcel Breuer. In 1938, Knoll was founded. On the other hand, Star Furniture Co. was founded in 1905 but was renamed as the Herman Miller branding in 1923.

Both brands are preeminent leaders in modern design. Their merger means they can benefit from profound legacies and a shared commitment to design, innovation, operational excellence, sustainability and social good. The union will catalyse the transformation of the home and office through a united portfolio of complementary brands. In addition, both brands will support each other, grow existing contract and retail channels, and explore new ideas and business innovations to ensure they meet the highest level of manufacturing excellence, customer sales and service, and user experience. Moreover, this new enterprise will have global functional teams in manufacturing, digitalisation, marketing, strategy, finance, human resource, and legal. The merger will drive growth and profitability with strong brand ownership to scale US and international markets.

Foscarini Acquired Ingo Maurer

Ingo Maurer

The late Ingo Maurer passed on in 2019. Image: Ingo Maurer.

Two renowned lighting companies have acquired each other. In 2022, an Italian lighting company acquired the leading German lighting brand Ingo Maurer, who founded the eponymous brand in 1963. Maurer was regarded as the “poet of light” — he designed fantastical and unconventional lighting products.

Venice-based Foscarini purchased a 90 percent stake in the business, while 10 percent of shares remain with Maurer’s daughter, Sarah Utermöhlen. Maurer passed in 2019, a few months after the acquisition. Foscarini will continue to run Ingo Maurer as a distinct brand to bring the designs to a larger market.

Lucellino table light

“Lucellino” table light designed by Ingo Maurer for Ingo Maurer. Image: Ingo Maurer.

Based on a Dezeen interview, Foscarini founder Carlo Urbinati said, “We will manage the brand Ingo Mauer with full respect to the company’s DNA and its important heritage.”

“We have had the opportunity to guarantee ourselves the honour and burden of playing a part in ensuring that the story of Ingo Maurer continues to be talked about around the world and support its further development on global markets.”

“Lumiere” table lamps designed by Rodolfo Dordoni for Foscarini. Image: Foscarini.

All Ingo Maurer products are still designed and manufactured in Munich, Germany, a legacy since 1970.

Iconic lighting pieces from Ingo Maurer’s vaults include the oversized lightbulb-shaped “Bulb lamp” and the winged “Lucellino table light, ” both in the permanent collection at MoMa museum.

Ingo Maurer will gain access to Foscarini’s wider network of more than 2,500 retailers worldwide, with the aim of growing the brand in markets such as Asia, Italy, and the United States.

Design Holdings’ Trinity Power

Design Holding

Design Holding’s booth at Salone del Mobile 2019 featuring Flos lighting and B&B Italia furniture. Image: Dezeen.

Three big-wig brands in the furniture and lighting industry have come together to form Design Holding. Formed in 2018, the group is comprised of B&B Italia, Flos, and Louis Poulsen. The big firm flexed its might and creativity during the Salone del Mobile 2019, creating the largest booth covering 4,000 sqm. Each brand displayed its new pieces alongside its legacy creations.

Over the past few years, Investindustrial, a private equity business, has been collecting a portfolio of design brands before joining the new Design Holding group. In 2014, it purchased 80 percent of Flos; the following year, it acquired the bulk of B&B Italia. In July 2018, Design Holding purchased Louis Poulsen. Concurrently, in 2016, B&B Italia acquired the kitchen brand Arclinea.

Design Holding

Flos lighting was featured at Design Holding’s Salone del Mobile 2019 booth. Image: Dezeen.

Founded in 1962, Flos offers a considerable portfolio of lighting creations designed by Achille Castiglioni. The lighting brand is renowned for modern pieces created by top-notch designers such as Philippe Starck, Patricia Urquiola, and Michael Anastassiades.

Louis Poulsen’s storied history began in 1874. It offers many iconic and classic lighting pieces, such as the “AJ lamps” designed by Arne Jacobsen, the “Panthella” lamp designed by Verner Panton, and the “PH” series of lamps designed by Poul Henningsen.

B&B Italia is no stranger to the furniture industry. B&B Italia was founded in Novedrate in 1966 by Piero Ambrogio Busnelli, the late father of Giorgio Busnelli, who is still involved in the business. The brand owns a raft of iconic designs, such as the “Up” chair designed by Gaetano Pesce and the iconic “Camaleonda” and “Le Bambole” sofas designed by renowned architect Mario Bellini.

Menu and By Lassen Is Now Audo Copenhagen

Audo Copenhagen

Audo Copenhagen’s showroom. Image: Audo Copenhagen.

The Danish furniture companies Menu and By Lassen have joined forces to create Audo Copenhagen. This new design company will house all its furnishings, lighting, and home accents in one location. Design icons from both brands’ past catalogues will be showcased here, including historical designs by Danish modernist architects Vilhelm Lauritzen and Mogens Lassen, as well as more recent partnerships with designers like Norm Architects, interior designer Colin King, and architect Danielle Siggerud.

The new brand was unveiled on 1 June 2023. It is named after Menu’s showroom, The Audo in Copenhagen, which will be rebranded as Audo House and function as Audo Copenhagen’s headquarters.

Design icons from both brands’ past catalogues will be showcased through the new brand, including historical designs by Danish modernist architects Vilhelm Lauritzen and Mogens Lassen, as well as more recent partnerships with designers like Norm Architects, interior designer Colin King and architect Danielle Siggerud.

Audo Copenhagen

Mogens Lassen’s “Saxe” lounge chair. Image: Audo Copenhagen.

In a Dezeen interview, Joachim Kornbek-Engell Hansen, design and brand director at Audo Copenhagen, said, “Menu and its multi-purpose property in Copenhagen, aptly named The Audo, have a unique identity that customers worldwide have responded to enthusiastically.”

“By Lassen is also strongly established in Scandinavia and the global design scene. Menu and By Lassen’s product portfolios and strengths combine to create an obvious global leader in high-end interior design.”

“Audo House reflects Audo Copenhagen’s collaborative spirit,” quipped Kornbek-Engell Hansen.

Hansen also explained, “Redefining how we use design, space and, ultimately, how we connect to one another, it’s a creative destination for powerful ideas, beautiful design and inspiration. Our quest to create a sense of community awards a higher value to the objects and spaces we create.”

Before this acquisition, in May 2022, Design Holding took a majority stake in Denmark-based Designers Company, which owns the brand “Menu”.

Fritz Hansen Gets Mightier


“Between The Lines” deck chair. Image: Skagerak.

Fritz Hansen, a well-known Danish furniture manufacturer, has expanded its product line to include outdoor furniture after acquiring Skagerak, another Danish furniture company.

Established in Denmark in 1976, Fritz Hansen bought Skagerak as part of its “ambitious” growth strategy, which intends to “strengthen showrooms and distribution channels across Asia, central Europe and North America”.

The purchase of the business that creates and produces interior and outdoor furniture was not disclosed financially. This acquisition means Fritz Hansen has added outdoor furniture to its furniture, lighting, and accessories lineup with the acquisition of Skagerak.

Skagerak products include the “Lilium” furniture series, which was created in partnership with BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group), a Danish architecture firm. The furniture is intended for use both indoors and outdoors.


“Lilium” series of outdoor furniture designed by Danish architecture firm BIG. Image: Skagerak.

Fritz Hansen CEO Josef Kaiser opined, “Skagerak and Fritz Hansen are a natural fit. Both are rooted in Nordic design traditions and responsible manufacturing and are synonymous with furniture and interior design of the highest quality. With the acquisition of Skagerak, we can now offer our customers, private and professional, a larger product offering whilst strengthening our business in our home market and internationally.”

Skagerak’s CEO Jesper Panduro also said the acquisition gives Skagerak a “perfect home”.

“Skagerak stands for longevity and responsibility with design and aesthetics, ensuring the products we make will last for generations,” Panduro said.

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