Premier Guitar features affiliate links to help support our content. We may earn a commission on any affiliated purchases.

Fender Chairman and CEO Bill Mendello Retires, Larry Thomas Appointed CEO

The planned retirement and succession plan also appoints current FMIC Board members, Mark Fukunaga and Michael Lazarus as FMIC Co-Chairmen.

Scottsdale, AZ (July 6, 2010) -- Fender Musical Instruments Corporation has announced the retirement of CEO Bill Mendello following more than 30 years of service. A corporate succession plan has been in place for nearly a year in anticipation of this planned retirement, and Mendello will remain on FMIC’s Board of Directors. As part of that plan, FMIC Board of Directors member Larry Thomas has been appointed as Chief Executive Officer. Thomas will take the new role effective August 1, 2010. Larry Thomas brings nearly 40 years of music industry experience to FMIC, including his successful tenure (1996-2004) as Chairman and CEO of Guitar Center, Inc. Current FMIC Board members, Mark Fukunaga and Michael Lazarus have been appointed Co-Chairmen, also effective Aug. 1, 2010.

Larry Thomas
“I am delighted to be able to pass the leadership of FMIC into the very capable hands of Larry Thomas,” said Mendello. “Larry is a widely-respected person with an incredible amount of experience and valuable insight about music companies and music retailers, large and small. He is one of the true legends in the industry and brings the credentials that will help lead FMIC to even greater future success.”

“Larry Thomas is a proven entrepreneur and seasoned professional manager with an impressive record of success throughout his entire career,” said Lazarus.

“We are very excited about our opportunity to work closely with Larry as he continues to build the FMIC culture and lead the FMIC team into the future,” said Fukunaga.

“It is an incredible honor and responsibility to be chosen to lead Fender Musical Instruments Corporation,” said Thomas. “As one of the world’s best known and most respected companies, there continues to be great potential in the FMIC brands, and I look forward to contributing to future success while growing the company’s powerful musical legacy.”

Thomas began his career in 1971 with instrument wholesaler/importer Buegeleisen and Jacobson, Inc. He joined Guitar Center in 1977 as a salesperson, subsequently rising through increasingly responsible roles including store manager, regional manager, general manager, president and ultimately chairman and CEO. At Guitar Center, he played an integral role in the company’s continued growth, acquisitions and subsequent public offerings, and eventual status as the largest, most popular music chain in North America.

Thomas is a passionate music fan and advocate, an active lifelong musician, and participates on several music-related boards, including the Fender Music Foundation, USC Thornton School of Music, the American Music Conference and the California Music Project.

Bill Mendello
Mendello commented on his retirement at the time of its announcement on June 29, 2010, saying “I have been uniquely privileged to call Fender my ‘second family’ for over 30 years. Now, after a 45 year career, I am looking forward to spending more time with my family, traveling and pursuing personal interests. I am very proud of the work I have accomplished and the people I have come to know in this industry and I am especially happy to be able to retire with a great amount of confidence in the company’s future.”

Mendello’s career in the music industry began in 1977, when he joined CBS Musical Instruments Division as the Vice President and Controller. This division then included such well-known brand names as Steinway (pianos), Rodgers (organs), Gemeinhardt (flutes), Lyon & Healy (harps) and, of course Fender. In 1981, Mr. Mendello relocated when the Division moved to Fullerton, Calif. and was appointed Senior Vice President of Fender.

On March 12, 1985, Mendello was a key figure in completing a leveraged buy-out of Fender Musical Instruments from CBS, Inc. to create the newly named Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC). Following the buyout, Mendello was part of the management team and was later named President and Chief Operating Officer of FMIC. From a small general office and warehouse in Brea, Calif., and a single manufacturing facility in Corona, Calif., FMIC has since grown to include state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in two countries, and sales and marketing offices around the globe.

Mendello was appointed Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of FMIC in 2005. With his depth of experience, and unique ability to understand and solve complex issues associated with all aspects of the business, Mendello has proven to be a universally-respected and admired leader of the iconic FMIC family of brands. During his time in leadership at FMIC, he has helped bring the company to new heights of visibility, profitability, and brand equity while continually advancing the quality and prestige associated with the Fender name.

In recent years, Mendello led the efforts that resulted in the successful acquisition of Kaman Music Inc. (now KMC Music Inc.), the largest independent U.S. distributor of musical instruments and accessories.

For more information:

Source: Press Releases
DØVYDAS & John Bohlinger Busk in Downtown Nashville
DØVYDAS & Bohlinger Busk in Downtown Nashville Before We Give Takamine Guitar & Fishman Amp to Local

Then we give a Takamine guitar & Fishman amp to an up-and-coming Nashville musician.

Music City is always swirling with top-notch musicians performing anywhere they can, so Takamine and Fishman challenged PG's John Bohlinger to take his talents downtown to—gig on the street—where he ran into YouTube sensation DØVYDAS and hands over his gear to rising star Tera Lynne Fister.

Read MoreShow less

The new Jimi Hendrix documentary chronicles the conceptualization and construction of the legendary musician’s recording studio in Manhattan that opened less than a month before his untimely death in 1970. Watch the trailer now.

Read MoreShow less
Rivolta Guitars' Sferata | PG Plays
Rivolta Guitars' Sferata | PG Plays

PG contributor Tom Butwin dives into the Rivolta Sferata, part of the exciting new Forma series. Designed by Dennis Fano and crafted in Korea, the Sferata stands out with its lightweight simaruba wood construction and set-neck design for incredible playability.

Read MoreShow less

We’re unpacking Reid’s playing—from his early days in the NYC jazz underground through his work with Living Colour and into supergroup superstardom—and his longstanding gear-acquisition-syndrome.

Read MoreShow less