Will Kodak Be Here in 2013?

This is of no particular interest to anyone but those of us who spent time working “in the yellow box.”

Tonight the Megamillions jackpot is $206 million dollars.

Eastman Kodak’s (at $0.69 / share) market cap is $186 million.

Though Kodak is mostly known as a (former) consumer products brand, today most, if not all, of its strength is in commercial graphics and printing where it is a clear leader.

The question is whether or not they have (or can raise) enough cash to downsize the company to fit its market, and whether or not their management realizes that is what they (in my opinion at least) have to do.

Lest you think about winning the lottery and buying the company, consider these two tidbits:

  • There is a recently enacted “poison pill” clause in Kodak’s corporate charter that lets them issue stock faster than you can buy it.
  • The above is wholly unnecessary because anyone who buys the current company also inherits the Kodak Park site in Rochester which, for all intents and purposes, has been an industrial chemical facility for the last 120 years or so.

I learned a lot during my time at Kodak. I had pretty decent access to the highest levels in the company, and experienced the process of some really tough decisions that were being made. To be known by face and name to top level corporate executives and people working on the shop floor is a rather unique perspective. Going back, knowing what I know now, would I take the job again? Without a doubt.

When I first interviewed there in December 2002, I grasped the implications of Clayton Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma immediately when I asked a simple question: “How much are you feeling the impact of cell phone cameras on your business?” The people I asked didn’t grok the question, much less the answer. Two years later, cell phone cameras were listed as the #1 displacer of one-time-use cameras. Today they are displacing consumer grade digital cameras in general.

There is no doubt with anyone that events in the next 4-6 months are going to answer the question in the headline of this post.

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