Kodak: The long slow decline of an industry icon

Iconic for decades, time running out for Kodak


Its legacy spans 13 decades, and boasts many American firsts, but Eastman Kodak (EK), best known for cameras and photography, maybe running out of options and time.

Concerns about the company's future boiled over on Friday, after it hired a law firm well-known for bankruptcy cases, sending its shares down 54 percent to 78 cents per share.

Although Kodak said it has "no intention" of filing for bankruptcy, the fact that its shares closed under $1, and market capitalization shrank to less than $300 million suggests that even the most die-hard investors may have lost faith.

The picture began to fade in September 2003. Film sales were dying, and Kodak slashed its dividend by 70 percent, hoping to gain flexibility as it beefed up spending on commercial and inkjet printers, medical imaging devices and other digital systems. It stopped investing in traditional consumer film.

The next year, billionaire financier Carl Icahn ended a brief, but profitable stint as a Kodak shareholder, saying that the company's business model would not work, especially since it needed to shift gears while its primary revenue source, film, was in decline.

"(What Kodak is doing) certainly might not be enough," he said. "I think it is possibly too late."

In January 2004, the company said it would trim costs by shrinking manufacturing, and cutting some 15,000 jobs, or about 20 percent of its work force, over three years. Its work force has since been pared to about 18,800 -- 9,600 in the United States -- at the end of 2010, down from 86,000 in 1998.

Kodak has been an iconic name in American business. The company's history stretches back to inventor George Eastman's Eastman Dry Plate Company in 1881. By 1885 he had introduced the the first transparent photographic film. The "Kodak" camera hit the market in 1888, with the slogan, "You press the button - we do the rest."

It rolled out Kodachrome, the first commercially successful amateur color film, in 1935, but George Eastman was unable to see its debut. The ailing Eastman, a pioneering inventor and prolific philanthropist, committed suicide in 1932.
Comment: Once in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Now a penny stock. Weighing bankruptsy

Also famous for Paul Simon's Kodachrome

1 comment:

  1. Now that's a bummer. One of these days I guess I'll have to retire my 30 year old Minolta and go digital, I guess....on the other hand, seeing some of the social stands Kodak took, one might also say "they had it coming."


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