After 130 Years, French Family Loosens Grip On Saxophones

FILE PHOTO  Photo Credit: Michal CIZEK / AFP


Since 1885 the descendants of Henri Selmer have been making saxophones favoured by jazz greats like John Coltrane and Charlie Parker, but the company has decided it’s time to bring in another player.

Facing growing competition from cheaper Chinese horns, a group of 55 shareholders representing the family’s fourth and fifth generations announced Thursday that they had sold a majority stake to European private equity group Argos Soditec.

From its factory at Mantes-la-Ville just west of the French capital, Henri Selmer Paris crafts some 9,000 saxophones a year for enthusiasts worldwide.

But chief executive Jerome Selmer, a great-grandson of Henri Selmer who will remain with the company, cited “fierce competition” when he announced the talks with Argos last January.

The company claims to corner 90 percent of the market for high-end saxophones, built out of 750 individual pieces by the company’s 500 employees.

And its fans extend far beyond France, with nine of every 10 instruments — mainly saxophones but also clarinets and mouthpieces — destined for export.

Former US president Bill Clinton figures among the group’s famous clients who brought his Selmer to the White House after his election.

China, Japan and other Asian markets account for fully half its output.

But even though sales reached 35 million euros last year, the company needed “financial security” to pursue its development, Jerome Selmer told AFP in January.


Release Our Brothers Boko Haram Tells Nigeria, Cameroun

Northern Islamic militant group, Boko Haram has released a video of a French family of seven kidnapped last month in Cameroun.

A man in this video who resembles past images of the person previously identified as Abubakar Shekau says in Arabic that the kidnapping of the French family was carried out because of the arrest of Boko Haram members of their family members in Nigeria and Cameroun.

“God sent us the French hostages …,” he says in what is called a message to the presidents of Nigeria, Cameroun and France.

In his words: “the proof that we are holding them is that our brothers and sisters were captured in Nigeria and Cameroun … We seek no money but the release of our brothers.”

Nigerian Troops Surround French Family’s Kidnappers- Source

Nigerian security forces surrounded the kidnappers of a French family in Northeast Borno state on Thursday in an operation to rescue the hostages, a Nigerian military source said.

French, Nigerian and Cameroonian officials earlier denied French media reports that the family, who were seized in Cameroon and taken over the border, had been freed.

The Nigerian military located the hostages and kidnappers between Dikwa and Ngala in the far northeast, the military source in Borno said, asking not to be identified.

Dikwa is less than 80 km (50 miles) from the border with Cameroon where the three adults and four children were taken hostage on Tuesday.

A senior Cameroonian military official declined to comment saying the matter was too sensitive.

Citing a Cameroon army officer, French media reported earlier on Thursday that the hostages had been found alive in a house in northern Nigeria.

“This is a crazy rumour that we cannot confirm. We do not know where is it coming from,” Cameroon Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary told Reuters by telephone from the capital Yaounde.

“What is certain is that the French tourists who were abducted are no longer on our territory. However, we are in touch with the Government of Nigeria to intensify measures to continue the search for them along our common border,” he said.

French gendarmes backed by special forces arrived in northern Cameroon on Wednesday to help locate the family, a local governor and French defence ministry official said.

Nigerian military spokesman Sagir Musa earlier also said the report on France’s BFM television of the hostages being released was “not true,” while Didier Le Bret, the head of the French foreign ministry’s crisis centre, said the information was “baseless.”

The abduction was the first case of foreigners being seized in the mostly Muslim north of Cameroon, a former French colony.

But the region – like others in West and North Africa with porous borders – is considered within the operational sphere of Boko Haram and fellow Nigerian Islamist militants Ansaru.

On Sunday, seven foreigners were snatched from the compound of Lebanese construction company Setraco in northern Nigeria’s Bauchi state, and Ansaru took responsibility.

Northern Nigeria is increasingly afflicted by attacks and kidnappings by Islamist militants. Ansaru, which rose to prominence only in recent months, has claimed the abduction in December of a French national who is still missing.

Three foreigners were killed in two failed rescue attempts last year after being kidnapped in northern Nigeria and Ansaru, blamed for those kidnaps, warned this could happen again.

The threat to French nationals in the region has grown since France deployed thousands of troops to Mali to oust al Qaeda-linked Islamists who controlled the country’s north.

The kidnapping in Cameroon brought to 15 the number of French citizens being held in West Africa.