The company led the way as an innovator, launching a large range of new products and processes to make photography simpler, more useful and more enjoyable. With the rapid growth of digital photography, competition against its product and being slow to embrace the move to digital technology Kodak has fallen on hard times. In January 2012, Kodak and its US subsidiaries filed voluntary petitions for Chapter 11 business reorganisation1 in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.
A company spokesperson said the aim of the business reorganisation was to enable Kodak to bolster liquidity, sell off nonstrategic intellectual property, and enable the company to focus on the most valuable business lines. The process will allow Kodak to continue normal business operations while it attempts to emerge a profitable and sustainable enterprise2. Kodak: Snapshot of an innovative icon slow to move with the times In filing for bankruptcy protection, Kodak executives say they are seeking to follow the path of US corporations that have reinvented themselves after a court-supervised reorganisation, like United Airlines and Chrysler.
Antonio Perez, the company’s oft-criticised chief executive who has been trying to turn the company around since 2005, said the bankruptcy was a step ‘in the transformation in order to build the strong possible foundation for the Kodak of the future’. ‘What everyone should expect from Kodak is business as usual’, he said in a video message. For critics, business as usual is exactly the problem with Kodak. They questioned how Kodak would emerge from bankruptcy as a viable company since it has not yet proved its turnaround strategy, focusing on consumer and commercial printers, can turn a profit. My sense is they have played every card they can dig out of the deck’, said Jay Lawrence Westbrook, a business law professor at the University of Texas.
He predicted that Kodak would liquidate most of its assets, with some parts remaining as viable companies, perhaps even called Kodak. But he added, ‘I would be surprised if they reorganised and look anything like the Kodak that went in’. Shannon Cross, an analyst who has had a sell rating on Kodak since 2001, said the problem for Kodak was that its core business had not been making money and the company had been living off licensing fees for intellectual property. To me it’s not clear that the pieces that will be left at the end make sense as a stand-alone company’, she said. ‘It’s sad that it happened. It’s not a surprise, the way it’s been managed’. 1 A US Chapter 11 proceeding is a legal mechanism that allows an organisation otherwise considered potentially bankrupt to focus on the preservation and reorganisation of ongoing operating companies. 2 The introductory two paragraphs are adapted from the Kodak Company website accessed 26 April 2012 via . Page 2 of 21
Global Strategy and Leadership—Pre-seen exam information The predecessor to Kodak, Eastman Dry Plate Co, was formed as a partnership in 1881 by George Eastman, and it became one of America’s blue-chip giants, a company whose name was synonymous with taking pictures and its ubiquitous yellow film box. But the company was slow to respond to competition in the film business from Fujifilm of Japan, which undercut Kodak’s prices. And though one of its own researchers invented the digital camera, Kodak was slow to embrace digital photography.
At a court hearing on Thursday evening, a lawyer representing Kodak creditors questioned management’s plan to borrow $US950 million to stay afloat during the bankruptcy process, noting the company had burned through $US2 billion in the past two years trying to reinvent itself. ‘From our perspective, what’s past is prologue’, said lawyer Michael Stamer. ‘They have taken what we believe is reckless and destructive spending and imposed them on this case’. At the end of the four hour hearing, Kodak won approval for $US650 million in interim bankruptcy financing, led by Citigroup.
Under Perez, who joined Kodak from Hewlett-Packard in 2003 and became chief executive in 2005, the company has tried to reinvent itself by focusing on printers, packaging and workforce software. Perez financed those efforts with billions in licensing fees from Kodak’s intellectual property, but analysts warned that Kodak was burning through cash too quickly and could eventually run out. Kodak announced in July that it would try to sell some of its digital imaging patents, hoping to cash in on a frenzy for intellectual property that drove Google’s $US12. billion takeover of Motorola Mobility. But Kodak failed to draw enough interest among potential buyers, driven in part by fears of the company’s deteriorating financial health. Mr Perez said his turnaround efforts were hurt by the recession, which slowed new business growth and expedited the decline of the film business. He said the objectives of the reorganisation included obtaining new financing to shore up confidence in Kodak, selling some of the company’s patents and adjusting ‘legacy’ costs—such as healthcare benefits to retirees—to the company’s now smaller size.
Allan Gropper, the federal bankruptcy judge overseeing the case said, ‘Kodak is a great American institution, and every creditor here, I’m sure, wants to see it get out of Chapter 11 as soon as possible and to prosper. The question is how to do that quickly and simply’. The first task may be for Kodak to sell the patents it has been trying to unload, said Daniel McElhinney, managing director of corporate restructuring for Epiq Systems. Though buyers may have been skittish, a court-supervised sale provided greater protection against liens and other claims.
A Kodak lawyer estimated the patents were worth $US2. 2 billion to $US2. 6 billion. If the sale is successful, and depending on how much money remains, Kodak will then have to convince the court that it has a viable business plan. Lawrence Perkins, senior managing director at Conway MacKenzie, a restructuring and financial advisory firm, said a bankruptcy could provide Kodak with a fresh start, but it would not be easy. ‘This is going to be a tough one’, he said. ‘Just like anything else, the business has evolved. It’s going to be hard to unwind 130 years of history’. Source: Martin, A. nd De la Merced, M. (2012), ‘Kodak: Snapshot of an innovative icon slow to move with the times’, The Saturday Age, Business Day, 21 January, p. 10. Replication of article in full. Global Strategy and Leadership—Pre-seen exam information Page 3 of 21 Kodak moments—A timeline of major company events 1881 Founder George Eastman starts Eastman Dry Plate Company with Henry Strong in his mother’s Rochester, New York kitchen. Eastman developed dry plates, which can be developed at any time, to replace photographic wet plates that had to be treated at once. 1885 First transparent film. 1888
First Kodak camera—the name was coined by Eastman, giving birth to amateur snapshot photography. 1889 Eastman Kodak Company formed. Transparent roll film makes Thomas Edison’s motion picture camera possible. 1892 Company renamed Eastman Kodak Company. 1898 First folding pocket Kodak camera. 1900 The Brownie camera sells for $1. Film is 15 cents a roll. 1901 Present parent company, Eastman Kodak Company of New Jersey, formed. 1929 First film designed for the new sound motion pictures. 1930 Added to the Dow Jones Industrial Average Index. 1935 Kodachrome, the first 35mm colour film, is launched.
Kodak holds a monopoly on film. 1938 First camera with built-in photoelectric exposure control, the Super Kodak Six20, introduced. 1963 The Instamatic, featuring easy-to-use cartridge loading film; more than 50 million were produced from 1963–1970; reduced to pocket-size in 1972. 1975 The first digital camera invented, but company keeps its focus on film, then its cash cow. 1984 First video system, Kodavision Series 2000 8mm. 1987 First one-time use camera, the Kodak Fling. 1991 Kodak partners with Nikon to market a professional-grade digital camera but sticks with film as core business. 001 Kodak EasyShare digital cameras and docking systems; popular with consumers but made little profit for the company since margin on digital cameras plummeted. 2005 The company focuses on consumer and commercial printers while photography products steadily lose market share. 2012 Kodak files for bankruptcy protection. Page 4 of 21 Global Strategy and Leadership—Pre-seen exam information Case Scenario 2 From Virgin Blue to Virgin Australia: ‘A fine balancing act’ 1 Introduction to Virgin Blue: Low-cost leisure travel for Australians