In a move that caught the astronomical community by surprise, today Imaginova Corp. announced its purchase of Orion Telescopes & Binoculars.
Based in Watsonville, California, Orion is a major manufacturer and distributor of telescopes and other accessories for the amateur-astronomy market. When Tim Gieseler founded the company in 1975 as Optronic Technologies, it specialized in drive correctors and other telescope accessories. Soon the product line expanded to include offerings from other manufacturers, but during the 1990s Gieseler shifted the focus to Orion-branded products and an emphasis on equipment for entry-level stargazers.
Negotiations between the two companies began about six months ago, after Gieseler began exploring options to sell the company and retire. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed in Imaginova's press release.
Daniel Stone, Imaginova's president and chief executive officer, told Sky & Telescope that the deal makes sense for several reasons, citing Orion's strong product line and its reputation for excellent customer service. "For us, it's all about authenticity and credibility," Stone notes, "and we've been impressed with Orion's focus on the consumer." Another factor was Orion's robust direct-marketing program, which distributes about 3 million product catalogs annually.
Imaginova, in turn, provides a growing multimedia presence that will make telescopes and related astronomy gear directly available to a broad new audience. "We've always believed that there were a lot more people who need to be introduced to our products," observes Tom Anglo, Orion's president. "We'll be accelerating new-product development and expanding dramatically in all directions," moves that will likely include establishing more retail outlets.
For now, Orion's day-to-day business will not change. "We will remain in Watsonville and continue our existing operation," says Terry D'Auray, vice president for marketing. Stone adds that he plans to keep Orion's "strong management team" in place.