Newspapers and blogs have been full of the news that Eastman Kodak and its US subsidiaries have filed for Chapter 11 protection from their creditors. You can get a copy of the filing here. Kodak has created a special Web site about the matter, called Kodak Transforms. (Itself, one assumes.)
The company has long been a husk of its former dominant self and its financial problems have been evident for years. Kodak is pinning its hopes on digital printing, the sale or licensing of its numerous patents and the forbearance of its creditors (which are listed from page 10 of the petition).
Chapter 11 rules give Kodak time to reorganise itself. The bankruptcy court has approved a $950 million line of credit from Citibank, which will help.
What kind of company will result is anyone’s guess but it’s unlikely to end up a major player in many of its present markets. Its last Securities and Exchange Commission 10-K annual filing lists 16 of these, which looks over-ambitious.
(That section of the 10-K says Kodak is in business to help people “unleash the power of pictures and printing to enrich their lives”. I didn’t know the SEC permitted such bullshit in official documents.)
Kodak is still a sizeable company, with a turnover last calendar year of $7.2 billion but this was down from $9.4 two years before. Over the last 5 years, its turnover has shrunk by an average of nearly 9% each year. Debts total nearly $6.8 billion, with assets at the same date (September 2011) of just over $5.0 billion. Shrinkage is inevitable.
The Economist has published this analysis of Kodak’s recent history. Its authors compare it with the rise of Fujifilm of Japan, a once upstart competitor that has managed the transition to digital with greater imagination and clarity of purpose. Some of the comments are worth reading.
Michael Johnston’s blog, The Online Photographer, carries a more personal response to the news. The comments to this, too, repay reading, nearly all being informed and informative.
Among the comments is a reference from me to a paper about Kodak’s future that I wrote in 1998. Because of its length, I have placed it a new area of the Office Jotter site called Tracts. Here it is.
How stumbling the steps were to the all-digital world that many people take for granted today and how slow and costly it then was to produce and disseminate images. One forgets.