Orion Telescopes & Binoculars has acquired the famous telescope manufacturer Meade.

Meade, Orion logos

Optronic Technologies, Inc., better known to backyard astronomers as Orion Telescopes & Binoculars, has announced the acquisition of Meade Instruments following the approval of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California.

Peter Moreo, President of Orion (and new President of Meade), states, “I am honored to have the opportunity to work with Meade employees, customers, and suppliers as the next phase of Meade’s corporate journey begins.”

For over four decades, Meade Instruments has been one of the world's largest designers and manufacturers of telescopes and accessories for amateur astronomers. The company has worked closely with independently owned and operated retailers that serve both casual and advanced amateur astronomers.

In 2019 Orion Telescopes & Binoculars sued Meade, then a subsidiary of Chinese manufacturer Ningbo Sunny Electronic Co. Ltd, in an antitrust lawsuit that included several other manufacturers. The lawsuit found that Sunny colluded with other Chinese manufacturers in a price-fixing scheme that formed a monopoly over the domestic consumer telescope market. In December 2019, Meade filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Moreo announced the formation of a new Orion subsidiary, Meade Acquisition Corp. (dba “Meade Instruments”), that has acquired all relevant trademarks and plans to continue the development, manufacturing, and distribution of products under the Meade brand. The company plans to continue delivering Meade-branded products to authorized retailers and suppliers. Additionally, Meade will continue to honor its product warranties. In conjunction with authorized dealers and distributors, Meade Instruments will make reasonable efforts to provide customer support, repair services, and parts for Meade products that are not covered by warranty.

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albertostars

June 1, 2021 at 6:32 pm

It is interesting that meade had colluded. Now that Orion took over, we stargazers may expect a great company supplying and servicing great equipment. I started one year ago in this hobby, interest, almost bordering on work once we get into this beautiful passion. But quickly learned that all telescope equipment sellers in the usa price every product the same. Rarely any telescope seller deviates from the exactly the same price for the same telescope, camera, tripod, mount, and on occasion only on accessories. I was a business faculty for many years and did research on this matter of market collusion and these behaviors fit squarely into that category. Good luck Orion.

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Almir Felipe Marinho

June 2, 2021 at 6:25 am

I live in São Paulo, Brazil and I do maintenance and market telescope brands: Meade, Orion, Sky-Watcher and Celestron. I was very happy about the Orion and Meade merger, thus setting a great milestone in our history and bringing new technologies to astronomers around the world, as well as easier access to spare parts.

Admiral Felipe Marinho
Brazil

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John-Haynes

June 2, 2021 at 9:57 am

For MOST of the mainstream amateur astronomy equipment, there's only a few factories in China responsible for the manufacturing. The Synta Technology Company of Taiwan and their manufacturing arm, the Suzhou Synta Optical Technology, appears to be the largest. They created the SkyWatcher brand name for their products in 1999, and in the early-to-mid 2000's bought out both Tasco and Celestron, to whom they had been supplying equipment for several years already. Prior to the 2005 buyout of Celestron, they provided the bulk of their equipment, in particular their lower-end products and their mounts (at least the CG-5-ASGT and the CGEM). Two of the other factories are Ningbo-Sunny, in Mainland China, and Guan Sheng Optical (GSO) in Taiwan. I don't know the numbers, but I'd estimate they account for at least 75%, and probably more, of the amateur telescope equipment sold in the United States and Europe.

Ningbo-Sunny purchased Meade several years ago and kept it running, but, as has been established in court, they were at least colluding with Synta concerning pricing. I believe that a lot, if not most, of the products were using components manufactured in the same factories. For example, the telescope currently sold as the Meade Infinity 80MM Refracting Telescope is the exact same optical tube as the Orion ShortTube 80-T Refractor telescope, the only difference being in the paint and decal on the tube. This same tube has also been sold by Celestron and, I believe, SkyWatcher. I don't mean they're similar, they're the same optical tube.

While i don't know this to be the case, I suspect there's a lot more overlap between Ningbo-Sunny and Synta products.

Even if there wasn't, they're competing in the same market for the same customer base and offering a lot of the same products. As such, pricing is going to be very close, if not the same, even if they weren't working in collusion. Look at the Orion XT-8 Dobsonian and compare it to the GSO-manufactured 8" Dobs (most notably sold under the Apertura and Zhumell brand names). These ARE from different manufacturers, but the scopes themselves are nearly identical: both 8" F/6 Dobs. The primary differences are found in the accessories bundled with each. Last I checked, the Orion was slightly cheaper, but the Apertura/Zhumell came with a slightly better (in my opinion) set of accessories, making them about a wash. Performace-wise, being essentially equal, it comes down to would you rather save a few bucks or get a slightly better set of accessories. You can always add-on to the accessories, so the savings might be the better option, but, again, it's just about even. As far as I know, Synta and GSO haven't colluded on pricing, it's just a matter of supply/demand curves.

Orion has, for a while, gotten a lot of its equipment from Synta. However, they were and remain a US-owned company, they just used Synta as a supplier of manufactured goods (as far as I know, there are no US-based facilities capable of producing the equipment in the quantities that Orion would need and to tool a factory up to do so would be far more expensive than getting them from China).

I noticed a few years ago that they started carrying some GSO products as well (the Orion SkyLine series of Dobs appear to be GSO-manufactured). I'm guessing this is at least partly due to the litigation between Orion and the others. I don't know that Orion manufactures any of its equipment state-side (though it's possible, just not likely they do much locally).

Orion purchases their products abroad, has them branded with their logos and paint schemes, provides their own manuals, and provides, from what I've seen, excellent product support (I have NEVER heart a complaint about Orion service from an original product owner, and have heard plenty of owners speak very highly of Orion support). In the case of Celestron, nearly all of their products are manufactured abroad and the bulk of the money ends up going abroad (I believe the C14 is still manufactured in California, but that's the only one as far as I know). Until now, Meade was entirely manufactured in China.

But these are not the ONLY manufacturers. There are others, several of which are US-based, that produce amateur equipment. Unfortunately, most of these are premium brands with higher price tags. Obsession is one example. Their Dobs are among the best you can find, and they're made in the US. I believe the Software Bisque mounts (e.g. Paramount) are made in the US. SBIG and FLI are us-based companies manufacturing cameras (I believe they are both at least assembled in the US). So there ARE native US brands, just the economics of the industry make it far less advantageous to use domestic manufacturing.

I'm hopeful about this news. Now that Orion owns the Meade name, perhaps we'll see a bit more competition in the marketplace, though that will largely depend on who's doing the actual manufacturing. One question I have is to who owns the IP on the products. The announcement mentioned that Orion now holds the trademarks, but do they own the IP behind the products? That could make all the difference in the long run.

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RichardF

June 4, 2021 at 4:57 pm

This is a very interesting and informative post. It's a bit US-centric though. I should point out that there are also many European suppliers who apparently manufacture in Europe, though again, a bit high-end. Apo objectives from Russia (LZOS) also feature in some products. Examples: APM, Officina Stellare, ASA, SkyVision (superb very large dobs made in France, near St. Emilion), 10Micron, Orion UK, Starlight Xpress, Atik, and many others.

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Bob F.

June 2, 2021 at 3:30 am

Per the title, I wouldn't describe it as a "purchase."
-----------------------
Meade’s Reorg Plan Sending Assets to Competitor Orion Approved
April 30, 2021
Bloomberg Law
 
"Meade Instruments Corp.'s Chapter 11 reorganization plan won court approval, setting the stage for transferring the telescope manufacturer’s assets to a competitor, Orion Telescopes and Binoculars.
 
Under the plan, Orion, which was Meade’s largest unsecured creditor, will receive substantially all of Meade’s “operating assets,” including cash, accounts receivable, inventory, intellectual property, and fixtures and equipment."

https://news.bloomberglaw.com/bankruptcy-law/meades-reorg-plan-sending-assets-to-competitor-orion-approved
 

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Sean Walker

June 2, 2021 at 7:00 am

Per Orion's press release: "Optronic Technologies, Inc. (dba Orion Telescopes & Binoculars) ("Orion") (est. 1975) today announced the formation of Meade Acquisition Corp. (dba "Meade Instruments"), an affiliate of Orion that has acquired substantially all of the assets of Meade Instruments Corp. ("Meade") (est. 1972), following the approval of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California."

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Starrancher

June 4, 2021 at 5:35 pm

Hopefully they'll bring back some of the LXD75 line like the f9.3 AR5 and the Schmidt Newtonian
Maybe some parts availability so LXD75 owners can keep their units running .

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