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The Kodak name is still automatically associated with photography, but it is now gradually fading into history. Having sold or closed virtually all its consumer operations, Eastman Kodak relaunched in 2013 as a commercial printing and prepress specialist, making large format printing systems and workflow software. It still produces professional movie film (another declining market), but consumer items such as Kodak-branded photographic film, batteries and camera accessories are all now produced under license by independent manufacturers. In 2015 Kodak made a bold but ill-advised stride into the mobile market with the launch of the photography-led Kodak Ektra Android smartphone, and has also relaunched a retro-styled Super 8 consumer movie camera. Neither found a significant market. The 2013 restructuring followed a long and steady decline. The company's founder George Eastman invented photographic film in the 1880s and went on to develop low-cost cameras as well as mail order developing and printing, making photography available to all for the first time. As a result, Kodak dominated popular photography for almost all of the 20th century; but it failed to adapt to the changing nature of the medium as digital technology swept away traditional film processes in the 1990s. The economic downturn of the late 2000s put further pressure on sales and margins just as the company was struggling to manage the huge cost of pension and healthcare benefits for its thousands of retirees. In the end it was all too much and Kodak finally threw in the towel in January 2012, filing for bankruptcy protection. Approval for a substantial restructuring was granted the following year. Jim Continenza is executive chairman & CEO. Revenues for 2019 were $1.2bn (down from over $14bn a decade earlier), of which almost two-thirds was generated by commercial print systems. The company reported net income of $116m. In 2020 Kodak reported another bold diversification, this time into pharmaceuticals. It secured a 25-year $765m government loan to adapt its existing chemicals production line to produce pharmaceutical ingredients used in the manufacture of generic drugs. That prompted a sharp spike in Kodak's share price, and the loan was put on hold soon afterwards when evidence emerged that several managers were granted lucrative stock options just days before the news of the loan became public. An independent review found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Kodak or the government agency behind the loan. However, the loan has been put on hold for the time being. Kodak said it will press ahead with its plan to diversify into pharmaceuticals regardless.
Capsule checked 11th February 2021
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Adbrands Weekly Update 11th Jan 2018: Struggling one-time photography giant Kodak may have found a key to a more profitable future. The company's shares more than tripled this week after it announced the launch of a digital currency based on blockchain, the code behind white-hot Bitcoin. KodakCoin is to provide the backbone for its Kodak One rights management system, allowing photographers to license and track usage of their work across digital channels.
Adbrands Weekly Update 16th Oct 2014: Eastman Kodak named Steven Overman as SVP & chief marketing officer, charged with leading the rejuvenation of the Kodak brand. He was previously global head of brand strategy at Nokia.
Adbrands Weekly Update 22nd Aug 2013: Kodak is to emerge from bankruptcy protection after a court approved its restructuring programme, under which the struggling film pioneer will offload its remaining consumer film and printing business to its pensioners in the UK as compensation for the elimination of their retirement benefits. The group's current shareholders will also be wiped out, with ownership of the slimmed-down group transferred to creditors. The new Kodak will focus its attention solely on commercial customers. Judge Allan Gropper described the failure of what was once one of the world's most admired corporate giants "a tragedy of American economic life".
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