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October 23, 2002

Shareholders approve Sonus liquidation

From: Portland Business Journal, OR
Oct. 23, 2002

The final chapter was written Tuesday in a local business tale that began with great expectations and ended with dashed dreams.

Sonus Corp. was a Portland-area high flyer just five years ago. Built by a team headed by a young entrepreneur, Brandon Dawson, Sonus was to be a national organization composed of myriad local hearing aid stores. Dawson's idea was to purchase independent hearing aid and related sites, bring some conformity to their operations and brand them so that "Sonus" would have the same resonance with the hearing impaired clientele as does Binyon's with the visually challenged.

But the reality of stitching together all those stand-alone shops was never as seamless as it was portrayed in the business plan. In the end, Sonus did become the largest audiology-based retailer of hearing instruments in North America. It sold private label and multi-brand products to hearing-impaired patients through 87 company-owned retail stores and 1,400 licensed network affiliates in the United States and Canada. But it failed to become the profitable enterprise shareholders thought it would.

It went public at nearly $10 a share in 1998, but after that, the stock marched steadily downward. By the time management concluded it must sell the company, shares dipped below $1. Tuesday, as the final nails were hammered into the coffin at a shareholder meeting in Portland, shares were worth 99 cents apiece.

In June, Sonus announced the signing of a definitive agreement for Amplifon to acquire the business of Sonus for a total consideration of $38.4 million in cash and the assumption of "certain obligations." Amplifon USA is a wholly owned subsidiary of Milan-based Amplifon S.p.A., described as "a world leader in the distribution and application of hearing aids" in a release distributed today by the companies.

The release said shareholders also approved, subject to the completion of the sale of assets to Amplifon, "the voluntary liquidation and dissolution of the company in accordance with terms of liquidation presented to shareholders, and a change in the company's name from Sonus Corp. to SSN Liquidating Corp."

Oct. 24 was set as the record date for a liquidating distribution to common shareholders under the terms for its liquidation and dissolution. The payment date for the distribution will be Oct. 28, "or the earliest practicable date thereafter," the release said.

© 2002 American City Business Journals Inc.