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    HomeBusinessJohn C. Koss, Stereo Headphone Innovator, Is Dead at 91

    John C. Koss, Stereo Headphone Innovator, Is Dead at 91


    But the audio market contracted, causing sales of headphones to shrink, and manufacturing problems in Taiwan damaged hopes of success with the Music Box and the digital radio. By 1983, the company was losing money, and its stock was faltering. Late the next year, after Mr. Dodson’s five-year contract ended, Koss filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

    Mr. Koss, whose net worth was tied entirely to the company, was broke.

    “I felt awful,” he told Inc. magazine in 1988. “My board had agreed, my family had agreed, but I was the guy who had to sign the papers. I just walked around in a daze, angry at myself.”

    A year later, Koss emerged from bankruptcy after taking measures like liquidating the Music Box and digital radio inventory and selling the company that made record and tape care products. It refocused on headphones, and it has not changed its strategy since then.

    The company overcame another hurdle when shareholders and the Securities and Exchange Commission sued it after it emerged that an executive had embezzled more than $30 million. The suits were settled in 2011.

    Two years ago, Koss sued several of its competitors, including Apple and Bose, for infringing on its wireless headphone patents. The cases remain open.

    In addition to his son Michael, Mr. Koss is survived by another son, John Jr.; his daughters, Debra Fulton, Linda Moore and Pamela Geimer; 15 grandchildren; 15 great-grandchildren; and his brother, G. Peter Koss. His wife, Nancy (Weeks) Koss, died in 2018.

    Mr. Koss retired as chairman in 2015, but Michael Koss said the company used him as a “secret weapon” until 2016 because of his standing in the audio industry.

    “If I took him to a trade show, people would bring their headphones for him to sign, especially if we were overseas,” he said. “People would line up to meet him.”

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