Interview with Horizon Hobby Pres. and CEO Joe Ambrose

Jim T. Graham interviews Joe Ambrose, the CEO of Horizon Hobby. There are lots of questions since the recent acquisition of Hobbico and Joe answers mine.

Splash Interview with Joe Ambrose about the Hobbico Purchase

Our hobby has had its share of bumps over the past couple of years. I was aware of the Hobbico issues before anything official was announced but I don't think any of us knew what would happen to Hobbico and all of their brands. One thing is for sure, the loss of a company as big as Hobbico would not be good for the hobbyists out there. When it was announced that Horizon was the winning bid I realized how much sense that made and was relieved that one of the top RC companies in the world was taking the reins of Hobbico.

I am a huge fan of Horizon and have always been treated well by everyone in the building. I count many of them as close friends. They are busy innovating on a daily basis and propelling our hobby forward. I want to thank Joe for taking time out to answer my questions and being so open about Horizon and the future.

Joe Ambrose - "Horizon’s goal in the Hobbico RC business acquisition is to combine the very best of both companies. We are putting Horizon and Hobbico together in a way that creates a ‘new’ Horizon, one that is well positioned to serve RC consumers and grow the industry."

  • JTG - What would have happened if Horizon had not purchased Hobbico?
  • JA - We don’t know for sure. We were told that in the bankruptcy auction process Horizon submitted the only competitive bid to buy Hobbico’s RC business. We were also told if no acceptable competitive bid was submitted, it would go to liquidation.

  • JTG -Will the Hobbico name go away?
  • JA - The Hobbico name is owned by Horizon and it won’t go away. But the way it gets used in the future will be different than the way it was used in the past.

  • JTG - What brands will Horizon be keeping?
  • JA - We will be putting together the Horizon and Hobbico brand and product lineups to move forward with the very best of both companies. We are focused on selling the products that people want to buy. So as we look at various brands and products, we are looking at demand and what consumers want. Several brands, such as Axial, Arrma, Real Flight, Top Flite, and Dromida will continue. We also have the opportunity to reposition some brands. For instance, we have already announced that ECX will become a brand that is only available through brick and mortar retail stores, so we can better support our local hobby shop partners. And there are some smaller brands that have strong products or products lineups. We will continue to sell and support those products. Those products may become part of another, larger brand, but the products will continue to be available. We will continue to sell and support those products that retailers and consumers show demand for.

  • JTG - How has the merger of the company employees been going? I know I see a lot of my favorite Hobbico people at Horizon now.
  • JA - We could not be more proud of our employees, both those who were already with Horizon and our new employees coming from Hobbico. In combining the best of both companies, we have added some outstanding people from Hobbico. We are in the process of getting our teams combined and working together as well as consolidating our systems. Everyone is working hard to get the transition completed while making everything seamless and easy for our retailer partners and consumers.

  • JTG - Will the merger have any effect on product pricing?
  • JA - Lots of factors impact product pricing but this acquisition is not a factor, at least not a negative one. Moving forward, we will be looking at ways to better leverage our combined scale and to do things more efficiently.

  • JTG - How will the purchase of Hobbico affect the availability of products?
  • JA - It will improve product availability. As we know from the information in the bankruptcy proceeding, Hobbico was capital constrained. So fill rates suffered and many products were not available. We are changing that and fill rates will improve to the level that Horizon customers are accustomed. Making changes in the supply chain and improving product flow takes some time. But customers will see improvements soon.

  • JTG - How has this affected the Axial and Arrma brands?
  • JA - In good ways. Horizon has hired all the employees who work with the Axial and Arrma brands. We are fixing the problems that caused fill rate problems with Axial and Arrma products. We are also addressing the constraints on new product development, so expect to see some great new releases from both brands as we move forward. And we are excited about getting Spektrum electronics into Axial and Arrma products. So good stuff.

  • JTG - What will happen to Tower Hobbies?
  • JA - Tower Hobbies will continue to be Tower Hobbies. Customers will see fill rates improve and much less ‘out of stock’. Customers will also see some Horizon brands and products for the first time on Tower. We are committed to maintaining the shopping experience the Tower Hobbies customer has become accustomed to while improving the selection of products.

  • JTG - What will Horizon be focused on moving forward?
  • JA - We will be focused on bringing innovative products to market and providing outstanding customer service. We will continue to focus on delivering products that perform at a high level in every segment of the market. In addition to product performance, we’re focused on improving the user experience. For instance, that’s what the Spektrum iX12 is all about. We are bringing the first truly smart transmitter to the market. We’ll be bringing more products to market that not only perform well but provide a ‘smart’ experience, both in how the products interact with each other and interact with the user. And we know the product is only part of the customer experience. We remain committed to providing the highest level of customer service.

  • JTG - Is there anything you would like to say to Horizon and Hobbico fans that has not been mentioned yet?
  • JA - We appreciate the passion that so many of you have for the hobby. We try to listen and make appropriate changes based on what we are hearing from the market. It’s great to hear nice things and it’s tough to hear bad things. But sometimes hearing about those bad things can be most helpful. So please know we care and we are listening.

    We are also passionate about what we do. Our vision is to impact the world for good through the influence of Horizon and its people. And we do it through our mission, which is simple – we help people have fun with hobbies. We’re blessed now with the opportunity to combine Horizon and Hobbico by taking the best of both companies. We want to sell and support the products you want to buy, where you want to buy them. We are now in a position to have an even bigger impact on the lives of those touched by the hobby. And we are in a better position to help more of you have fun with hobbies. We are committed to doing just that.

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Jun 15, 2018, 08:30 AM
Registered User

Will Tower/Horizon continue with the Futaba line?

Jun 15, 2018, 08:46 AM
It's never enough.
deanoatc's Avatar

Nitro Fuel

It is becoming more difficult to purchase nitro fuel. I have always been a big morgan fuel customer, and currently use 4 cycle blends. Tower has been out of stock for almost a year now. With limited brick and mortar stores around, will tower continue to sell fuel? Specifically morgan fuels? If I cant buy fuel, which tower used to always have in stock, how will my engines run? Please let us know Joe!
Jun 15, 2018, 09:15 AM
Registered User
"We are focused on selling the products that people want to buy."

Why was the Calypso all of a sudden discontinued? There is still a strong following of this well designed glider. Looks like the Radian is being pushed instead, which is a whole different glider.
Jun 15, 2018, 10:37 AM
I’m curious about how the various brands will be differentiated. Using Hangar 9 & Top Flite as an example: currently both are larger, Balsa ARFs (with a few TF kits remaining). Having two brands overlapping doesn’t make business sense, so something will have to change.
Jun 15, 2018, 10:45 AM
Registered User
Interesting there was no mention of Great Planes.
Jun 15, 2018, 11:45 AM
"Mongo like beans"
maddmatter's Avatar
I am hoping this does not affect the progression of technology into the hobby. It has been, at least for me, great that Horizon has been pioneering the "teach yourself to fly" and "make the hobby easier" products. I would actually not have even tried to fly again without that stuff. I wonder if they are not changing direction now.
Last edited by maddmatter; Jun 15, 2018 at 12:37 PM.
Jun 15, 2018, 11:47 AM
Registered User
The alternative was “liquidation” so anything from Hobbico was LUCKY to survive. Period.
Latest blog entry: Testing the blog page
Jun 15, 2018, 11:47 AM
Registered User
There was no mention of a lot of things. A very softball interview.
Jun 15, 2018, 12:09 PM
Buy the competition, get there designs and patents. Close them down and push your own items. Just wait it's gonna happen and my be in the process already with the Flyzone line.
Jun 15, 2018, 12:25 PM
Registered User
Originally Posted by TOMZILLA
Buy the competition, get there designs and patents. Close them down and push your own items. Just wait it's gonna happen and my be in the process already with the Flyzone line.
You are absolutely correct!!!!! Already happening.
Jun 15, 2018, 04:39 PM
Registered User

Confused by Horizon

Bought a used/almost new Tower Kaos 60 at a flea market. First flight flew well until the canopy came off. I knew about the canopy issue but thought mine was stronger and would last a couple of flights.. lol

Looked at Tower in Mid May for Kaos 60 parts. I backordered the canopy (which is the upper mid section of the fuselage) along with other Kaos parts for use on other projects. All 5 parts online showed that they were due in "Late May". With hope I watched on May 31st - thinking can't get much later in May than this. June 1st showed up and the status of all 5 parts that I had ordered changed from "Late May" to "On Order". (canopy, wing tube, spinner, wing bolts and landing gear set).

Now I just shake my head. Do they have any plan to bring these parts in or are they just stringing people along?

I loved the Great Planes, Futaba and Top Flite product lines. Will Horizon continue them or alienate a portion of tower's customer base?

Sorry, just needed to vent,
Paul D.
Jun 15, 2018, 05:56 PM
Agreed - Great Planes / Goldberg only has two kits that I see - Tiger 60 and Tiger 2. Goodbye Eagle 2 - a great trainer. Also Sig seems to be going away from Tower as well. Nothing about Phoenix Models, although they seem to still have some of these.

Reminds me a lot of what Great Planes / Hobbico did with Thunder Tiger, Goldberg, Lanier, and others they acquired.
Jun 16, 2018, 06:11 AM
I'm not the pivot man
Originally Posted by mrob
There was no mention of a lot of things. A very softball interview.
Agreed ... near useless in fact. Most of what was said is already knowledge on this site and news releases. I think what people want to know is what the hell is going to happen to GP kit planes, parts and the future direction of the combined company in detail.
Last edited by FusterCluck; Jun 16, 2018 at 01:32 PM.
Jun 16, 2018, 03:11 PM
yank and bank!!
I'd like to know if the UMX A-10 is going to be alone in the UMX EDF category...

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