Cymbal-making family clashes in court

BOSTON -- The heirs to the formula for what are considered among the most melodious cymbals in the world are clashing in federal court over control of the family company and its Canadian subsidiary.

The secret cymbal formula and control of the Avedis Zildjian Co. have been passed to the oldest male heir for the past 350 years. But that tradition ended with the current generation of Zildjians.


Soon after the death of the man for whom the company is named, his sons began maneuvering for control, according to court papers.

The battle has become so bitter that an attorney for Robert Zildjian argued in documents, filed in U.S. District Court, that 'there exists innumerable and potentially irreconcilable differences between his brother, Armand, and himself which have made it impossible for the two men to co-exist as shareholders and directors of the company.'

Avedis Zildjian, an alchemist near Constantinople, discovered the formula in 1623 for a cymbal which pleased the sultan as well as the Armenian church, which uses cymbals in worship services.

Taking the name of Zildjian, or 'cymbal-maker,' he began manufacturing the instruments in Europe, passing on the formula -- which includes about 80 percent copper and 20 percent tin -- to the next generation.


In 1929, Aram Zildjian brought the formula to the United States to pass on to his nephew, Avedis, who formed a company in sububan Quincy. The firm moved to Norwell in 1973.

Most orchestras use Zildjian cymbals, as well as such famous percussionists as Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich.

When Avedis died in 1979, he passed ownership of the company to his two sons, Robert and Armand, and their children. Each son got 49.472 percent, with the remainder going to a trust controlled by both men.

But Robert Zildjian claims he has been leader of the company since his father assumed less of a role in 1968. Robert is arguing Armand and his sons have conspired with the bank that holds the trust to freeze him out of any role in management of the company.

Robert contends he has the option to buy the company's Canadian subsidiary and wants the court to forbid the rest of the family from interfering with his operation of the other foreign branches, whose sales he takes credit for.

Armand's son, Rab, has argued that Robert is trying to buy the Canadian subsidiary at only 2 percent of its actual value. Armand's side wants the option declared invalid.


The company's sales have risen from $250,000 in 1947 to more than $9 million in 1979.

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