After filing for bankruptcy in November of last year, Kodak has re-emerged as a much smaller, business-to-business focused company that will provide commerical printing and digital imaging services. While a far cry from its years in consumer products, CEO Antonio Perez urges that the company is “working at the same intersection of materials science, digital imaging and precision technologies that it had been for decades prior to the bankruptcy.”
After increasing competition from overseas companies and emerging digital technology essentially killed Kodak’s business, the company sold off what it could, including its signature camera film division to its UK retirees who had a $2.8 billion debt owed on their pension plan. It sold its roughly half-billion dollar patent portfolio in return for $844 million in financing and reduced billions of dollars of debt by issuing stock at a severely reduced rate to creditors.[more]
“I’m very, very happy today,” Perez told the Wall Street Journal, saying the new company “comes with a great capital structure and with a great balance sheet.”
Founded by George Eastman in 1880, Kodak was the defining brand for cameras and film for close to a century. Today, the company has only a fraction of its former 145,000 employees at its peak in the 1980s, with about 8,500 today, but revenue is projected to hit $2.7 billion this year as the new Kodak pursues digital technologies including smartphone touchscreens, smart packaging embedded with sensors and super-fast commercial inkjet printers such as the Prosper Press. The personal imaging division that was sold earlier this year to the UK pension plan will now operate as Kodak Alaris, with no noticeable change to its consumer-facing product and service offerings.
Polaroid, another analog brand that has suffered similar misfortunes, has since rebranded for the digital age after going bankrupt and being sold in 2001. The company opened its first retail store earlier this year in Florida, the Polaroid Fotobar, which helps consumers “liberate” images from the “confines of their digital devices.”
The Kodak company still has a long and unfamilar road ahead of it, but Perez is confident in the refreshed brand. “Look for a case of a company that had to go through this kind of excruciating restructuring and kept innovating. It just doesn’t happen, but we’ve done it.”