Kodak future bleak
CHICAGO -- Even in bankruptcy, Kodak boasts some enviable strengths -- a golden brand, technology firepower that includes a rich collection of photo patents, and more than $4 billion in annual sales of digital cameras, printers, and inks.
But all that may not be enough to revive its declining fortunes in a court-supervised financial overhaul.
Kodak is at a crossroads. It could to go the way of fallen Montgomery Ward and Circuit City, two corporate names that never recovered from long declines.
Or Kodak could prosper after bankruptcy like General Motors.
The company that brought photography to the masses at the dawn of the 20th century, and was known all over the world for its Brownie and Instamatic cameras and its yellow-and-red film boxes, was brought down first by Japanese competition and then by its inability to keep pace with the lightning shift from film to digital technology over the past decade.
The company said it has secured $950 million in financing from Citigroup and expects to continue operating and pay its employees while in bankruptcy.
In the meantime, Kodak will try to execute its plan for recovery.
Of the many restructuring experts interviewed Thursday, none is optimistic that the company can make a strong comeback.
Selling select business lines and patents and making the right bets on a limited number of new technology products could allow the Eastman Kodak Co. to survive, several experts said. But none sees a path back to anything close to the glory days.
"You can pick your metaphor: 'Stick a fork in them,' 'they're over the cliff,' " said Bill Brandt, chief executive of turnaround consultant Development Specialists in Chicago. "The Kodak as we know it is done, unequivocally."
The company's only hope, Brandt said, is to reinvent itself as an intellectual property company. First it will have to put its patent portfolio up for sale and determine whether it wants to sell them based on what is offered, he said, or retain them and try to remake the company over a period of years.
Kodak said only that it has appointed a chief restructuring officer to head the effort, Dominic DiNapoli, vice president of FTI Consulting. It expects to complete its restructuring next year.
Whatever the company does now is likely to be too little, too late, said Gary Adelson, managing director of turnaround firm NHB Advisors in Los Angeles.
"I can't imagine a big future for Kodak," said Adelson. "I think it's going to be another one of those companies that didn't make the transition to the future."