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Fritzbox from AVM: Internet, WLAN and telephony functions

Photo: AVM

In addition to cheering about new products and trophies, there is a job advertisement on the homepage of the Berlin-based company AVM. The manufacturer of the Internet routers and smart home accessories known as Fritzbox is always on the lookout for extraordinary talents and creative minds, it says.

At the moment, however, the company is mainly looking for a new owner, reports the »Handelsblatt« .

The investment bank Lincoln has already prepared an auction process, several private equity investors would deal with the company, it said. The paper refers to "people familiar with the matter". Lincoln declined to comment, and AVM neither confirmed nor denied the incident.

The company only explained to the »Handelsblatt« that the founders are approaching 70 years and want to ensure »that the success of AVM continues, even if one day they are no longer with the company.« The transition has been discussed and planned for some time, but they do not want to participate in speculation.

Beginnings as an agency for screen text

AVM began in 1986 when four students founded the company in Berlin-Neukölln as a service provider for screen text (BTX). The company name, which is an abbreviation for the term "audiovisual marketing", also dates back to this time. The name Fritz is preceded by all products, "because they were looking for a non-technical name that would also hint at German workmanship abroad with a wink," one of the founders, Johannes Nill, told SPIEGEL ONLINE in 2006.

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Initially, the team developed BTX applications for online banking and price comparisons on behalf of Loewe and Blaupunkt. However, the company, which was still small at the time, only became really successful when it produced PC plug-in cards for the digital data transmission service ISDN, which were initially sold at unit prices of several thousand euros.

At the beginning of the new millennium, the company entered the booming market for DSL routers. Initially, the devices combined a DSL modem with a telephone system for digital and analogue connections in one device. When Wi-Fi connections became popular, the company also built a base station for wireless connections into its Fritzbox routers. In the meantime, the portfolio includes routers for DSL, fiber optics, TV cable and mobile phone connections, as well as a number of additional devices for smart home applications.

Stress in the nineties

In the nineties, the founders wrestled for the first time with a possible sale of the company. A Berlin-based bank, which they had taken on as shareholders to finance growth, wanted to monetize their stake and sell AVM to a US corporation. At the time, however, only Ernst Nill, brother of Johannes Nill, agreed with the bank's proposal. He had already retired from the company by this time. The dispute ended with the other three founders getting heavily into debt in order to finally be able to buy their shares from the bank.

Today, there is no question that the risk was worth it. AVM now has almost 900 employees, resides in a stately building on the Spree, dominates the German market with its products and has long been successful abroad. For 2022, the company reported sales of 620 million euros, and profits are estimated to be in the high double-digit million range.