Is There a Prince in the Wings?

2014 was a milestone year for the hearing instrument industry. Today’s post is a milestone, too.  It’s the holiday season,  the 200th post to appear in Hearing Economics, and also the last of the fluffy, sensationalized Siemens fairy tale series with lots of pictures. all the stars in alignment, Hearing Economics is celebrating by totally making up a killer ending to the fairy tale. The previous 199 posts had verifiable facts at their cores, this one has a nutcracker. Happy New Year!

Setting the Stage


When Phonak and GN Store Nord merged on paper in 2006,  the then-provincial hearing aid industry was dazzled by this prose in Hearing Review:

The combined Group will become the global hearing health care powerhouse with the most comprehensive portfolio …a world-class team that will deliver the best … to customers around the world. …we anticipate becoming the most attractive supplier to [dispensing professionals] and end-users alike.  (Phonak Group CEO Valentin Chapero)

“Global hearing healthcare powerhouse” sounded so audacious, dominant, visionary, thrilling!  Too much so for some, including the German Federal Cartel Office (FCO), which nixed the merger as a restraint of trade.  Angst and finger-pointing within the once-again provincial industry was calmed by measured words in Hearing Review:

the ruling [is] a “theoretical structural argument” based on maintaining the balance of a set number of major competitors in the German market, with Siemens being the only company having a dominant market position… Siemens [did not]  influence… the court’s decision. … It effectively prohibits any future global mergers if those companies have a significant stake in the German market. (Phonak CEO Valentin Chapero)

The global powerhouse vision seemed dead in the water until higher German powers reversed the FCO decision in 2010, freeing the vision and unchaining those who envisioned it.

Meanwhile, things trundled along at the Big 6 with the only excitement coming from Siemens Audiology, which failed to sell itself but did manage to end its troubled marriage to Hear USA in a spectacular divorce.  Behind the scenes, at least one visioneer maneuvered to get the global powerhouse vision fired up again.  The first rumblings were heard in August 2013 when Bloomberg reported the gossip (paraphrased):

a former Siemens hearing aid chief executive (Valentin Chapero) was trying to persuade Siemens to sell the unit, offering to take a leadership role and get private-equity partner to provide most of the money.

The global powerhouse did not emerge, but the engine was humming, a leader was in the wings. Hearing Economics thought maybe, just maybe,  it sensed a pattern.

Large-Font, Bold, Italicized Foreshadowing


Siemens’ buy-out by German private equity company EQT on November 6 restored the global powerhouse.  A small article in an online German publication that week put forward a name for who would lead the powerhouse.  The relevant words (I think) were these:

EQT werde von Valentin Chapero beraten, der früher die Hörgerätesparte führte …. Er wird nach der Übernahme auch als neuer Chef des bislang in Singapur und Erlangen stationierten Geschäftsfelds gehandelt. Chapero gilt als talentierter Manager in diesem speziellen Bereich der Medizintechnik.

Which (I think) means something like this{{1}}[[1]]Anyone who actually speaks German is encouraged to improve/correct this terrible translation.[[1]]:

EQT will be advised by Valentin Chapero, who formerly led the (Siemens) hearing aid division…. He is seen as the new head after the takeover of the manufacturing divisions previously traded in Singapore and Erlangen. Valentin Chapero is considered a talented manager in this specialized area of medical technology.

The fairy tale begins to pick up steam again.  Could Hearing Economics and Manager Magazin have stumbled on The True Prince, wandering the world in search of his destiny?   Could Valentin Chapero be The One?  Is he a match for Princess Siemens?

Is Valentin SAS’s Valentine?


Valentin Chapero has been toiling for over a decade, in public and behind the scenes, to get the global powerhouse going.
Fig 1.  Valentin Chapero Rueda

Dr. Chapero Rueda has a princely resume.  According to an online profile, his first languages are German and Spanish, he’s fluent in English, and does OK in French.  This would be handy for running a global company.

Academically, he spent 12 years at the University of Heidelberg where he took his doctorate in Physics in 1988.  He was already showing a deep interest in developing principles of applied physics to study human sensory systems, manifest by his dissertation topic{{2}}[[2]]Chapero Rueda, Valentin: Hochauflösende fundusstabilisierte Perimetrie : ein System aus Eye-Tracker und Laser-Scan-Ophthalmoskop zur Erzeugung und Nachführung von Mustern am Augenhintergrund / vorgel. von Valentin Chapero Rueda, 1988.  Tr courtesy of Google translate: a system of eye tracker and laser scanning ophthalmoscope for generating and tracking of patterns on the back of the eye. [[2]] in the then-emerging field of scanning laser opthalmology.

A decade later, he added a 2-year degree in Business Management at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, which US News and World Report ranks  #14 for Best Business Schools.

His stellar professional life{{3}}[[3]]Much of the information in this list comes from an interview Dr. Chapero Rueda gave to Audiology Online in 2005.  Items in quotes are taken verbatim from that interview.[[3]] fast-tracked up the management ladder, starting in IT, moving into medical devices, on to mobile networks, topping out as head of one of the Big 6.  The one hiccup in that exponential ride has been covered previously by Hearing Economics and does not belong in this post, since this is a fairy tale with a made-up happy ending.

A Resume Fit for a Prince

    Fig 2. Patent reported in JASA, 2001

    1988-1990:  Nixdorf Computers.  Research and development in Unix Super Computers.

  • 1990: Siemens purchases Nixdor Computers.  Dr. Chapero Rueda goes with the acquisition.
  • 1992:  Professionals Service Division, Spain.
  • 1996: CEO of Siemens Hearing Instrument Division, Germany.  “tripled their revenues.”  Also stayed hands-on and R&D-focused:  check out the cool patent, which may come to fruition now that Smart devices are upon us.
  • 1999:  Director, Siemens Mobile Network Business.  “a rather larger, global business.”
  • 2002-2011, CEO of Phonak/Sonova Holding AG, Switzerland.  The aforementioned hiccup coincided with the end of this period.
  • 2008-2010:  President elect of European Hearing Instrument Assn (EHIMA).
  • 2011-2012:  Advisor, Sonova Holding AG, Switzerland.
  • 2012-present:  Founder, Valamero Holding AG, Switzerland. Investing in “early stage companies in med-tech, information technology and mobile applications.”

Also, he’s rich and, by all accounts, “charming” (c.f. Fig 1).  These are basic requirements for all princes.  That 2005 interview with Audiology Online not only underscored his exceptional intellect and Herculean talents; it also showcased a self-effacing ability to charm interviewer and readers.

 And They Lived Happily Ever After
Fig 3. The Happy Couple

Princess SAS is a high-ticket babe who’s had to put up with a lot and deserves the best prince money can buy.  Valentin Chapero looks like the right Prince Charming for the job.  It’s a job he’s been groomed for all his professional life and one he’s been lobbying for for many years. Hearing Economics says let him have it and make SAS a happy princess and her subjects wealthy shareholders (Fig 3).

And so the fairy tale ends. Prince Valentin and Princess SAS lived together long and happily, and ruled their people and their shareholders well.

And so 2014 ends with best wishes to for an exciting and happy 2015 for all who care about hearing, hearing research, hearing technology, and hearing loss.

images courtesy of ballet news, amazonxing,  fan pop

About Holly Hosford-Dunn

Holly Hosford-Dunn, PhD, graduated with a BA and MA in Communication Disorders from New Mexico State, completed a PhD in Hearing Sciences at Stanford, and did post-docs at Max Planck Institute (Germany) and Eaton-Peabody Auditory Physiology Lab (Boston). Post-education, she directed the Stanford University Audiology Clinic; developed multi-office private practices in Arizona; authored/edited numerous text books, chapters, journals, and articles; and taught Marketing, Practice Management, Hearing Science, Auditory Electrophysiology, and Amplification in a variety of academic settings.