Kodak rolls into bankruptcy
US photographic film pioneer files for bankruptcy protection after years of failing to make a profit in digital market.
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2012 14:10

Eastman Kodak, the US-based company which brought photography to the masses over a century ago, has filed for bankruptcy protection after years of failing to become a profitable seller of modern consumer products. 

The 130-year-old photographic film pioneer said it had obtained a $950m loan from Citigroup, the US financial firm, to help keep it going.

"The board of directors and the entire senior management team unanimously believe that this is a necessary step and the right thing to do for the future of Kodak," Antonio Perez, the chairman and chief executive of Kodak, said in a statement.

The company said that it, and its US subsidiaries, had filed for Chapter 11 business reorganisation in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. Non-US subsidiaries were not covered by the filing, it added.

Kodak once dominated its industry, but it failed to quickly embrace more modern technologies such as the digital camera - ironically, a product it even invented.

The company's downfall has already hit its hometown of Rochester, New York, with employment there falling to about 7,000 from more than 60,000 in Kodak's heyday.

'Lumbering dinosaur'

"Anyone who's dealt with Kodak ... over the last 20 or 30 years has just seen this lumbering dinosaur with wonderful research, coming up with great ideas, but believing that they have some kind of divine right to be the only company selling the means to take pictures," electronics journalist Barry Fox told Al Jazeera.

Electronics journalist Barry Fox discusses the film company's legacy and downfall

"And it's desperately sad that reality has caught up with them."

"[When these companies collapse,] always it is because the people at the top fail to look at what's happening at the bottom," said Fox.

"So many of these companies ... are in ivory towers, and the ivory towers collapse."

Perez said bankruptcy protection would enable Kodak to continue to work to maximise the value of its technology assets, such as digital-imaging patents it licences for use in mobile and other devices, and its printing technology.

In recent years, Perez has steered Kodak's focus more towards consumer and commercial printers. But that failed to restore annual profitability, something the company has not seen since 2007.

Kodak said it was being advised by US investment bank Lazard, which has been helping Kodak look for a buyer for its 1,100 digital patents.

Other advisers included business-turnaround specialist FTI Consulting, whose vice chairman, Dominic DiNapoli, will serve as chief restructuring officer for Kodak, supporting existing management.

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