Antonio M. Perez, Kodak Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said today that the company was emerging from Chapter 11.
What is Chapter 11? When a business is unable to pay its bills, it can ask a federal bankruptcy court for protection. Protection against what? Disgruntled stockholders whose shares may have become worthless, or retired employees whose pension plans evaporated, among others.
Mr. Perez said, “We have emerged as a technology company serving imaging for business markets – including packaging, functional printing, graphic communications and professional services.” He did not mention motion pictures.
Andrew Evenski, President, Entertainment & Commercial Films, Kodak, did: “Kodak has announced its emergence from Chapter 11 restructuring, and the motion picture film business will continue to be part of the company’s future. We are manufacturing film, we’ve inked contracts with six studios. Kodak’s Entertainment Imaging represents a stable and profitable division of the company. Moving forward, I am confident in our ongoing ability to provide value to the motion picture and television industries, which has been our honor to serve for so many years.”
This is important and I hope labs worldwide can continue to succeed.
Kodak’s Personalized Imaging and Document Imaging businesses goes to Kodak Pension Plan in the U.K. It will be named, alarmingly, Kodak Alaris. The new company has a perpetual license to use the Kodak brand for retail photo kiosks, dry labs, photo specialty retailers, professional and wholesale labs, still-camera film and something called “Event Imaging Solutions,” which “provides digital souvenir photography services and solutions at theme parks, iconic destinations, resorts and other markets worldwide.” Oh, and Paper & Output Systems offers “traditional photographic paper and workflow solutions.”
Kodak was founded in 1888 by George Eastman. He made portable photography popular and available to all. Kodak endowed motion pictures with a relatively future-proof, worldwide standard: 35mm film. No other medium had reached so many people until then. Photochemical photography and cinematography was a unifying force of the 20th century. “You Press the Button, We Do the Rest” and “Kodak Moments” were part of our culture.
In 1976, Kodak had a 89% market share of photographic film sales in the United States.
Kodak’s market value reached around $31 billion. By the time Kodak filed for bankruptcy, it was hoping to sell 1,100 patents related to digital imaging for $2 billion. The patents finally sold for about $525 million.
Bryce Bayer, working in the Eastman Kodak Research Laboratories, invented the filter mosaic that bears his name, the Bayer Pattern (U.S. Patent No. 3,971,065 in 1976.) If only Kodak had made their digital sensors the next new universal standard.
Companies have life cycles. Moy and Mitchell were once formidable companies. They now belong to Joe Dunton. I wonder if Joe still has his eyes on Kodak.