This morning it was announced that the boards of directors of both companies approved the acquisition of Knoll by Herman Miller as part of a $1.8 billion cash and stock transaction expected to close by the end of the third quarter of this calendar year. The transaction is still subject to approval by shareholders of both companies along with the receipt of required regulatory approvals and the “satisfaction of other customary closing conditions,” according to a joint press release. Upon completion of the transaction, Herman Miller shareholders will own approximately 78 percent of the combined company and Knoll shareholders will own roughly 22 percent.
Knoll was founded in 1938 in New York City by German-born furniture manufacturer, Hans Knoll, who was soon joined by his future wife, the Michigan-born architect and industrial designer Florence (Schust) Knoll. With her, Florence brought into the fold a wealth of close friends and mentors including Mies van der Rohe, Eero Saarinen, and Harry Bertoia (the latter two being contemporaries of Florence at Michigan’s Cranbrook Academy of Art.) In 1950, the company’s operations were relocated to East Greenville, Pennsylvania, where it has remained ever since. Following the sudden death of Hans Knoll in 1955, Florence led the company, which today describes itself as a “constellation of design-driven brands and people,” through a period of immense growth and international acclaim. Florence resigned from the company in 1965 and passed away in 2019 at the age of 101. Today, Knoll oversees more than ten brands including Knoll Office, KnollStudio, KnollTextiles, and Edelman Leather. It is also the founding sponsor of the World Monument Fund Modernism at Risk program.
Like Knoll, Herman Miller also has Michigan roots. It was founded in 1905 as the Star Furniture Co., later becoming the Herman Miller Furniture Company in 1923. (Miller was a major stakeholder and father-in-law of longtime company president, Dirk Jan De Pree.) In 1960, the company, which had since successfully transitioned from a leading manufacturer of traditional wood furniture into an iconic producer of modern furnishings for residential and commercial environments designed by the 20th century’s most lauded designers and architects, was renamed Herman Miller Inc. In 2008, Herman Miller launched the Herman Miller Group, a seven-member family of brands that includes, among others, HAY and Design Within Reach. Well over a century after it was founded, the company still calls Zeeland, a small city in west-central Michigan, its corporate home.
Together, Herman Miller and Knoll collectively oversee brands, 50 physical retail locations along with multi-channel e-commerce capabilities, a global dealer network, and a presence in over 100 countries worldwide. And, of course, there’s the storied roster of famous names who have designed for Herman Miller and Knoll over the decades. The “highly complementary combination” of the two companies will, per a news release, “create the preeminent leader in modern design, catalyzing the transformation of the home and office sectors at a time of unprecedented disruption.”
“This transaction brings together two pioneering icons of design with strong businesses, attractive portfolios and long histories of innovation,” said Andi Owen, president and chief executive officer of Herman Miller, in a statement. “As distributed working models become the new normal for companies, businesses are reimagining the office to foster collaboration, culture and focused work, while supporting a growing remote employee base. At the same time, consumers are making significant investments in their homes. With a broad portfolio, global footprint and advanced digital capabilities, we will be poised to meet our customers everywhere they live and work. Together, we will offer a deep portfolio of brands, technology, talent and innovation, to create meaningful growth opportunities in all areas of the combined business.”
Owen will remain president and CEO of the combined company. Andrew Cogan, chairman and CEO of Knoll, will depart after 30 years with the company.
As noted in the news release, the merger will create what companies have identified as several “compelling strategic and financial benefits:”
- Pairs two industry pioneers to catalyze the transformation of the home and office at a time of unprecedented disruption.
- Combines two highly complementary businesses to create a broader product portfolio.
- Enhances scale and capabilities to drive growth and profitability.
- Accelerates digital and technology transformation.
- Brings together common cultures and capabilities, with a shared commitment to social responsibility.
- Delivers significant financial benefits.
More particulars about the historic merger including further insight into the above benefits and what it means for shareholders and customers alike can be found at this dedicated transaction website.