Tube Supplies in Peril

Essay by spicyricecakes May 2010

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Tube Supplies in Peril

By Tim Elledge, contributing editor

Many of our fellow organ and amplifier technicians are at once familiar with the New Sensor and Sovtek industry names. New Sensor supplies the world with quality vacuum tubes, used by manufacturers such as Hammond Suzuki, Fender, Peavey, Carvin, Vox, Ampeg, and Korg. The Sovtek 6550WE is an essential stock item in many of our shops, widely used in the Leslie power amplifiers.

Mike Matthews, founder and CEO of New Sensor Corporation, owns ExpoPul, a manufacturing plant in Saratov, Russia, where over 800 workers manufacture tubes with brand names such as Sovtek, Svetlana, Electro-Harmonix, Tungsol, Mullard and others. His property has been under siege since last November, when an entity known as RBE (Russian Business Estate) insisted that Mike accept a buy-out bid of $400,000. Since tubes are expected to account for half of New Sensor's projected $17.4

million in 2006 sales, the offer was flatly refused.

RBE owns several properties adjacent to the ExpoPul plant, and one of them is RefEnergo, the electricity and natural gas provider for the area. Soon after November, RBE issued several threats to General Vladimir Chinchikov, the director of ExpoPul, promising to disrupt business if the company wouldn't sell. Mike Matthews is not the kind to give in to extortion. Soon, high-level Russian government officials were receiving letters of protest from CEO's at Fender (US), Peavey (US), Vox (UK), and Korg (Japan). ExpoPul had hearings with Russia's Anti-Monopoly Commission, and the Arbitration Court, and won strong decisions in each case. Regardless of this, RefEnergo sent a letter to General Chinchikov, stating that energy to the building would have to be cut off, because of "technical limitations" and disputes between the two companies. On March 29th, 2006, electricity was shut off. But after...