NEW YORK — An instrumental piece of rock 'n' roll history is going public.
Fender Musical Instruments Corp., the maker of legendary guitars strummed by the likes of Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, filed papers Thursday for a $200 million initial public offering.
Founded in 1946 by Leo Fender, the company created the Telecaster and Stratocaster guitars in the 1950s.
The "Strat," a favorite of Hendrix and scores of others, went on sale in 1954. It had a sturdy, all-wood body that could stand up to repeated abuse.
In recent years, the Scottsdale, Ariz., company's guitars have been used by musicians from Bruno Mars to Shakira.
"The Fender brand in particular is closely associated with the birth of rock 'n' roll and has a strong legacy in music and in popular culture," the company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In its filing, Fender said it's the country's biggest seller of electric, acoustic and bass guitars. It also makes amplifiers and other instruments including banjos, ukuleles and mandolins, and sells instruments under other brands such as Squier, Jackson, Guild, Ovation and Latin Percussion. Guitars and amps make up nearly three-quarters of its sales.
The classic Strat and Telecaster models are still made today, with prices ranging from a couple hundred dollars for a basic model to several thousand dollars for high-end and custom versions.
Private equity firm Weston Presidio now owns 43 percent of Fender. Fender's distributor in Japan, Yamano Music, holds the No. 2 stake at 14 percent.
Launching the IPO will help Fender pay down its debt load of $246.2 million. Fender said it plans to use about $100 million of the IPO's proceeds to repay debt, with money left over for working capital.
J.P. Morgan and William Blair are managing the IPO.
The company plans to trade the shares under the "FNDR" symbol on Nasdaq, but didn't say when. It did not lay out how many shares the company and its shareholders intend to sell or set a price target on its stock. The final offering may differ from the $200 million in Thursday's filing as the IPO's bankers gauge investor demand for Fender shares.
Fender posted net income attributable to common stockholders of $3.2 million in 2011, reversing a net loss of $17.3 million the year before. Revenue grew 13 percent to $700.6 million from $617.8 million.