Celestron Sold (Again)

Celestron Headquarters
Celestron has maintained its business offices and manufacturing facilities in this building in Torrance, California, since the mid-1970s.
S&T photo by Rick Fienberg.
After nearly a week of Internet-fueled rumors and speculation, California-based telescope maker Celestron announced on April 6th that the company had been purchased by SW Technology Corp., an affiliate of the Asian telescope manufacturer Synta Technology Corp. In a press release, Celestron's Chief Executive Officer Joseph A. Lupica Jr. categorized the purchase as "a very positive development for Celestron [since it] will allow us to continue providing the best telescopes available on the market." Synta is widely known for its SkyWatcher telescopes and is a major supplier of privately labeled astronomy equipment sold worldwide through such sources as Orion Telescopes & Binoculars. The company has maintained a business relationship with Celestron for more than 15 years.

According to Synta founder David Shen, Celestron will continue to be led by its senior management team, which has privately owned the company since purchasing it from the failing telescope giant Tasco in 2002. According to the press release, as a result of Synta's purchase "Celestron will . . . continue to lead the product engineering, development and manufacturing processes from the Torrance, California, headquarters. All product warranties will stay in effect and product support will not be interrupted or delayed. The company's first goal is to fill a three-month backlog of product orders and work to resume a full-scale production and product development operations." Shen added that he wanted to assure everyone that "Celestron's operations will remain in Torrance," and that he is "committed to maintaining Celestron's reputation of quality."

Founded in the 1960s by self-taught optical genius Thomas Johnson, Celestron has been on a financial roller-coaster ride in recent years. Synta's purchase marks the fifth time the company's ownership has changed hands. Johnson and his partners sold Celestron to the Swiss holding company Diethelm & Co., Ltd., in 1980, which ran the operation until 1998, when it was sold to one-time telescope juggernaut Tasco. Tasco, however, was in a rapid downward spiral, and Celestron was only hours from liquidation in 2002 when its assets were purchased by its current management team. At the time, rival telescope maker Meade Instruments attempted to buy Celestron, but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) blocked the merger as it had done in 1990 when Meade expressed interest in buying Celestron from Diethelm. Meade was also negotiating with Celestron on the most recent sale but was foiled by the FTC's announcement that it would once again oppose such a merger.

Meade and Celestron remain the world's only major sources of Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes. Both companies have kept the manufacture of these popular instruments in their respective plants in Southern California, despite having significant ties to manufacturing operations in Asia.