Nine years after cutting it’s 40-year relationship with Yamaha and staking as its own independent company, Sakae Drums has suspended business operations.
The company has nearly $7 million in debts, according to news reports. Sales had dropped to $2.8 million in 2016, down from a high of $13.2 million in 1988. Lawyers began debt settlement procedures this month after banks stopped extending lines of credit.
Fans of the high-end drums were worried when, in early 2017, rumors surfaced that the company was going out of business. Sakae was founded in 1925 and, starting in the late 1960s, produced Yamaha’s top-tier drums for 40 years.
Sakae had been distributed in the United States since 2014 by Korg USA. Korg touted Sakae’s new Almighty Series, with North American maple and Japanese birch options, at this year’s winter NAMM trade show in January.
“There is not much we can say at this time,” said Korg spokeswoman Jennifer Lewis. “Our position hasn’t changed as a distributor as we continue to sell and service the dealer base.”
Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin was one of Sakae’s high-profile endorsers, switching from Yamaha to the smaller boutique company for a time in the 2000s. But the writing may have been on the wall when, earlier this year, he switched back to Yamaha before the announcement of the Smashing Pumpkins reunion.
Sakae did not immediately return requests for comment.