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In a special RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll, readers shared their views on the news reported early Thursday that Eastman Kodak Co. announced it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Kodak files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
Officials react to Kodak's bankruptcy
Kodak's growth and decline: a timeline
Here are signed comments from readers:
They will never emerge from it; they'll end up selling off a couple of divisions, selling some IP, and shutting down the rest. Perez is NOT the guy to get them through this issue.
It's a sad day for a lot of folks who will pay dearly but had no voice in the decisions that brought them to this dilemma. Honestly, though, who didn't see this coming from miles away?
—Lou Calarese, Applied Audio & Theatre Supply
Sad, profoundly sad.
—Dan Meyers, Al Sigl Community of Agencies
Glad he's doing something to try to salvage what's left. Someone needs to assess Perez' effective/performance; seems like Kodak has continued to decline under his leadership.
—Erin Schmerbeck, Schmerbeck Co.
Not surprised at all. I left Kodak in 1997 and at the time said to many friends and family the company would be out of business in 10 years. The bankruptcy filing was only five years beyond my prediction.
—J. Eric Bonham, former Kodak employee
How sad that a company that was revolutionary in its innovation when it was founded more that 120 years ago may meet its demise because it failed to stay on the leading edge of the technology shift. Hopefully, the company can reinvent itself under new leadership and still play a big role in Rochester's future.
—Arnold G. Boldt, managing partner, Arnold-Smith Associate
Certainly wasn't a surprise! I'm a Xerox retiree, and we lived our struggles as well; fortunately we had visionary leaders who "steered the mighty ship" through turbulent waters and kept us afloat!
—Sandy Leary, Xerox retiree
How sad the inevitable has occurred. I hope the Kodak board of directors will infuse the organization with new leaders capable of executing a tightly focused, realistic plan for recovery. This includes achieving excellence in what the company already has, investing wisely in only the most promising future products, providing focused direction to every employee, and further shedding of costs and liabilities no longer relevant to the company's immediate survival. May the Force be with you!
—Dave Kennedy, Webster
Kodak was my first client when I started Phinney Rankin Inc. It was exciting to work with and for that exceptional company. My hope is that this will not be the end of a company so iconic for its global reach and products that are always of the highest quality.
—Carolyn Phinney Rankin, president, Phinney Rankin Inc.
The board of directors should be ashamed of their failure.
This is an unfortunate, but not unexpected outcome. Very few companies have survived the sort of technological crossover that Kodak has experienced. Interestingly, Fujifilm seems to be one of them (see current issue of Economist magazine). Bankruptcy can be a good way to rapidly and dramatically reposition a company. It can also be a way to prepare the assets of a company for sale and reuse by others with stronger business models. I would bet that in 10 years, there may not be a Kodak, but the assets will be providing good returns for some company and jobs to perhaps as many people here in Rochester.
—Charles Pfeffer, Contextus LLC
—Jim Butler, Pittsford
I was not surprised. I am sad that such a great company has had to go this route, but they aren't the first and they won't be the last. How many companies today were started more than 120 years ago without being bought out by someone else already? It's rare, I think. So while it hurts our community, maybe it's to be expected. I am also afraid for my friends and family members who still rely on Kodak for health care and pensions; some who work there and most who don't. It will be a real struggle to lose those benefits and replacing them will be a burden that many people just can't take on in the current economic climate.
—Patty Langdon, former Kodak employee now with Seneca Park Zoo Society
It is almost comical: When a company does poorly, they fire the employees. Not the CEO or upper management. When a sports team does poorly, the coach is the first to be fired. I think the last three CEOs have run Kodak into the state it is now. The board of directors and CEO should be fired!
This is the only outcome that could follow years of poor business decisions. Unfortunately, those who caused this decline will never be named or punished in anyway, while those who retired or are still employed at Kodak will bear the financial fallout.
Sad that a once-dominant global corporation is now finding itself one step away from extinction. Lesson to learn here—do not get complacent. Evolve and change or die!
As a lifetime Rochesterian, I am so sad to see this day come to our city. However, when the digital era came and Kodak lagged behind the times, I think we all saw the eventual writing on the wall. Leadership lacked vision and that is what truly led to this unfortunate outcome. Many other companies have filed Chapter 11 and used it as a springboard to get back on track. We can only hope Kodak has some brilliant plan to diversify and gain market share once again. My heart goes out to the existing employees and retirees whose futures are uncertain. May the decisions favor them for their loyalty through the past years of turmoil caused by poor planning on the Kodak leadership team. Having been laid off three times myself, I hope they are all able to make lemonade out of this sourful situation. It is amazing how resilient we are however as a community and I give a shout out to the entrepreneurial spirit we are blessed with. I've been in advertising and marketing for over 30 years and have the upmost respect and appreciation for the small- and medium-business owners in this city. Carpe diem to all!
Although it's a blow to our city's psyche, the majority of economic damage done by Kodak's decline has already been realized by this community. We can either choose to be positive or negative. I hope people will look at this as a real opportunity for Kodak to rebuild itself as a stronger, leaner company that will continue to call Rochester home. Change is certainly never easy.
—Michael Schwabl, Dixon Schwabl
I think that it is a classic story of a company that first lost its focus and second, lost its edge. Kodak used to innovate, now it replicates. Kodak use to lead, now it follows. It replicated and followed into a crowded, highly competitive and low-margin market with inkjet printers thinking that it could compete. We all see where that took them.
—John Halewski, CSNY Inc.
First, I feel sad that it marks the end of a corporate era for Kodak. And I feel the Kodak management teams performed valiantly over the past 15 years to move the company into the digital age. We can easily use hindsight to see poor decisions that were in no way apparent with the information available at the time. For example, no one in the late ‘90s could have predicted Facebook. Many companies do emerge from a restructuring as a healthy company, and we can hope that will be the case for Kodak. I just don't readily see an apparent competitive advantage in the business lines it's left with. I hope I'm overlooking something and Kodak can turn itself around under the reorganization plan.
—Dyke Smith, Navint
Antonio Perez is incompetent, and the board of directors should be investigated. This company has "spun off" every profit-generating business element in the interest of short-term quarterly gains and "focusing on their core business.” This, to the point where there is nothing left of any real value to sustain the company. There is no "core business." I do not, nor have I ever, worked for Kodak or any of its suppliers.
—Jim Bongard, Parker Aerospace
Watching Kodak these last few months has been like watching someone walk a tightrope over an abyss. It had been attempting to capitalize on its digital patent portfolio before it was forced into bankruptcy. The problem Kodak had was that if someone bought its patent portfolio and the company subsequently filed bankruptcy, it's likely the acquirer could get sued for fraudulent transfer. So, the threat of a bankruptcy may have been scaring off potential buyers. What will be interesting to see is if the company can match Nortel's success receiving five times its asking price after auctioning off its patents while in bankruptcy. The remaining question now is how will Kodak emerge from this position. However, there's no doubt it will be forever changed in the future.
—Brian Pitre, president of Dockside.net Inc.
This should have been done sooner. Failure to deal with reality has led Kodak leadership to drag down a lot of things and people. We can only hope they finally get their act together. Oddly, this probably doesn't affect as many people as they think. They are the last to know and either current management and/or the board of directors are inept. Fifteen years ago, I would have been afraid to say that for fear of repercussions against my business. Fifteen years ago, a banker told me that everybody was already picking at them like they were roadkill. They abdicated responsibility and lost all credibility. This community has so many stories about what a great company they were. Whomever is left should focus on what a great, albeit smaller company they can be in the future. As W. Edwards Deming said, "It is not necessary to change, survival is not mandatory."
Once the second most valued world-wide brand, Kodak has suffered leadership problems for nearly four decades. The patent portfolio is a legacy of George Eastman's foresight in spending for research. The inability to monetize this treasured asset with timing and excellence underscores the leadership gap, compared, say, to Fuji or GE or IBM. For the legions of good, dedicated people who have worked there, and for Rochester, what reaction can we have but gratitude for an extraordinary legacy of innovation, success, vision and philanthropy that are still the hallmarks of the community's excellence & quality of life over 132 years? Whatever this sad event says about current stewardship, it diminishes not an iota of the greatness of Kodak's founder or the community culture he helped to mold.
—David Lovenheim, Managing Director, Keystones Global LLC
This is the final act by Mr. Perez in his quest to destroy Eastman Kodak. Since he took the helm the company stock has lost 96 percent of its value and sold most everything not nailed down. He is and has been incompetent, as are the board of directors who kept him in power. Now he and the board will proceed to line their pockets before using their "golden parachutes" to exit. It is sad that someone can do this and not go to jail. I feel for the employees, retirees and stockholders who will suffer because of this.
—Bob Rutt, Kodak retiree
It's sad but not unexpected. They were big and clumsy and refused to accept or make necessary changes years ago, e.g.; concentrate on digital imaging vs. film. However, I'm pleased to hear how well our area (Rochester) has weathered the fall of such a 20th century giant. I hope for the sake of retirees that something positive comes out of this.
Except for the people who retired from Kodak thinking that they could rely upon the promises Kodak gave them and who will undoubtedly be screwed, who cares. What does Kodak do for our community? It stopped manufacturing. It seriously cut back on its support for our not-for-profits. Rochester has gotten along without Kodak for years now. We can move on from Kodak like we would move on from a stale relationship. It is time we learned to cultivate and charm and hitch our wagon to a company going forward not a company whose business plan is to sue other companies or sell out its valuable assets.
Another case of executives being overly compensated and not looking to the future.
Not surprised. The operative question would be: What took them so long? It’s a great company that refused to follow "new American business plan" (filing for bankruptcy) as long as it could, but success in business, today sadly seems to require bankruptcy or bailouts. The old America (work hard, make good products, sell them for a fair profit) is quite clearly dead! The realities of a global economy, good and bad.
I saw this coming a long time ago. For years, Kodak has repeatedly hired the same type of CEO, one that buried his head and didn't have vision for the future. If you repeat the same action over and over, you'll always get the same result. Perez should NOT get paid for this, no golden parachute. Steve Jobs worked for $1 annually, Perez should do the same.
—Rich Calabrese Jr., Rochester
No surprise, unfortunately. The poor employees and retirees!
—Devon Michaels, Chili
It has been a long time coming. Unfortunate news, but isn't it heartening to look back at the company's beginnings and see how George Eastman's impact on this community has begotten what are today some of (or most of) Rochester's biggest economic players: higher education, medicine, the arts, a strong optics cluster, an intelligent workforce, and a burgeoning high-tech/engineering startup culture in the wake of Kodak's collapse? Each and every one of us has benefited in some small or large way from Eastman's legacy. I plan on visiting his final resting place to pay tribute this week.
—A. Harper, retired
Sad to hear the news. Even sadder is the fact that Kodak had time to adjust to the digital revolution and didn't. Slow-moving corporate cultures always get found out in the end. Instead of talking about slashing and burning, Antonia Perez should get back to Kodak's roots and promote innovation throughout the company. That's the only real way Kodak will come back and thrive.
—Dan Harris, Cheltenham, UK (Rochester native)
Hopefully they are able to get through this reorganization and regroup and forge ahead with the same visions that George Eastman might have had, should he be here today.
—Angela Martin, Martin Enterprises
A sad commentary of a company that lost its way and made some strategic decisions that abandoned its core strengths. It could have been a driving force in the digital world of photography but chose not to play until it was too late. Xerox is also at a point of strategic change and has "bet its future on" moving away from its core strengths and shifting toward providing support services along with a number of major competitors already in the market. One can only speculate as to whether there will be yet another story about another Rochester business icon seeking protection like Kodak is doing. Time will tell.
—Dave Coriale, Webster
Hmm. My first reaction would be how is Perez still at the helm? Could you be anymore incompetent? In addition to that, he sits on Obama’s job creation board. Maybe the occupiers could protest him by staying in the parking lot that all of the previous Kodak employees used to park before they lost their jobs. Maybe if Kodak employees were part of a union, Obama would bail them out. I work for a CEO who is here at 6:30 a.m. every morning and leaves late every night, because of that work ethic it's no surprise we are a better company, a growing company and the shareholders and employees are happy. Maybe Perez should spend his time here in Rochester focused on Kodak instead of spending his time in Washington, where nothing gets done. Leadership is earned, not handed out; I believe he is the wrong guy to lead Kodak into the future.
—Brandon McGuire, Transcat
Hopefully it will make for a stronger company that will be positioned to create jobs. Hopefully going forward the failures of government and company leadership and all those involved will not be repeated.
—Randy Regan, Advanced Transit Manufacturing
It is ironic that Kodak manufactured products within the optics industry, but were so corporately myopic in the '90s and early 2000s as the photography industry changed around them. I fear that they will sadly go the way of Studebaker, Frigidaire, Woolworths and TWA, and other iconic brands that fought desperately to remain unchanged in a changing world and succeeded—only to realize too late that they should have changed with it.
—Evan Brown VP, Media Director
How very sad for Rochester. For years when my husband and I travel we would explain where Rochester is by saying "the home of Kodak and Xerox.” Having Kodak here definitely helped define what our city is about. I worry for all of their employees. Let's just hope that Xerox lasts for many years to come!
—Jody Hellman, president, The Towers Airport Business Park
The Kodak bankruptcy filing was not good news, but it was not unexpected. This past year it became evident that the company was struggling to get cash to operate and they participated in more desperate moves to do this throughout the years. Unfortunately, Kodak has been a mismanaged company from the days of George Fisher through the present with Antonio Perez. Each leader with their respective board of directors has degraded the company as they tried to bring in their management style and move Kodak to produce products the president was familiar with but unsuccessful. Now we are trying to sell inkjet printers in a saturated market against those who have been doing it for years and profitably. Thank you, Mr. Perez, former HP exec. Throughout the years, Kodak has sold off units that are now profitable, i.e. Eastman Chemical (soon to be the only standing Kodak company), Health Equipment (now Carestream) and Health Sciences (now Johnson and Johnson). Kodak also suffered from marketing arrogance and misdirected advertising. They got into markets too late and tried to command premium prices as they were undercut by foreigners. Where have you lately seen a Kodak ad? Remember Polaroid cameras, magnetic disks, magnetic tape, Optical CDs, and digital cameras to name a few. Unfortunately the board of directors, who are composed of people of the same cloth as the management, have the same values and lack of performance. They have consistently gone along with all of this and never held any of the management accountable for their performance. Only the workers are held accountable, and those in charge get a free ride. Now you are out of free passes. Do you really think that your intellectual portfolio is worth that much? The past has indicated the IP is grossly overvalued. Unfortunately during this bankruptcy, the suppliers are going to get screwed. Remember when Kodak's ink supplier tried to get out but the courts would not let them. Now EK will drag down another company with them as they will never get back the millions they are owed. Now the retirees better get some good attorneys so that EK will not screw them as they go down for the last time. If I were an EK employee, I would have been looking for a job 5 years ago. You can't keep buying the same old Perez line that they are finally completing the restructuring to a digital company, unless that's an out-of-business company. Being a past EK employee, I really feel sorry for all of us who gave our sweat to the company only to live through the years of mismanagement and failed promises. Say goodbye to EK. You had better odds of surviving if you were on an Italian cruise ship.
This is a sad time for Rochester, but it has been coming for a long time. It goes to show that no company should rest on its laurels and should always be looking for innovations for the future.
—Judy Palmieri, Rochester
We were aware that is was highly likely so not a shock but it's very disappointing that it has come to this. As a former employee, I saw all the signs for years but the management culture was not one that would take input from their own employees or from outside consultants for that matter. They continued to believe that downsizing would fix their problems rather than examining the source of decreased profits and market share. A sense of superiority and outright arrogance led to the belief that they knew what they were doing for the last 10 years. In truth, the successful companies are those that have a culture of communicating and a sense of humility that there is always more to learn and more things that can be tried. Perhaps the good to come of this will be a realization that they must transform themselves to become this type of company.
—Joanne Greene-Blose, The Project Solvers of America Inc.
This announcement is very sad. I am a native Rochesterian and for as long as I can remember, Kodak has been a pillar of Rochester. When I was in high school, my job goal was to get a job at Kodak. That was "THE" place to work, and everyone wanted to work there. What we have watched over the last many years is like watching a good friend die a slow death, and it's very sad. (And I never did get to work at Kodak.)
I think it is a horrible development for Kodak and Rochester. How could a company that meant so much to the world be in this position? Especially when they possessed the technology for digital imaging first! Where do they go from here? It is really sad.
—Frank Muto, president, FJM Inc.
A lot of small local vendors are going to be hurt by lack of cash flow. But if EK is to save itself, this is the only way. Need to get rid of Perez and his team of losers. GM should have been allowed to do the same thing as opposed to the taxpayer bailout.
I am in favor of this action, mostly so we can now get on to what has to be done. Obviously, the current management has not a clue as to what has to be done. Perhaps outside intervention will move this company off of the "getting-nowhere-track" it has been on for far too many years. Minimally, we will find out if the firm can be saved, or if its life cycle has come and gone.
—J.A. DePaolis, Consultative Services
I am saddened that such a giant is hurting so. The Kodak name once stood for the best of anything to which it was applied. It was such a major part of Rochester. Some of the best engineered products in the world came from Kodak.
—Paul Conaway, Lockheed Martin
I typed my views four times and deleted them—they would never get printed. This clown advises Obama. Explains a lot! But he wins—to the tune of $8 to $9 million a year! Excuse me, I have to throw up.
How can we not mourn the decline of Kodak, which has been a gleaming hallmark of the Rochester landscape for more than 100 years? George Eastman's legacy shines on in the Eastman School of Music, the University of Rochester's schools of medicine and dentistry, in Highland Park, and the George Eastman House. Eastman donated more than $100 million to Rochester projects during his lifetime and bequeathed his estate to the UR. While employing generations of Rochesterians, Kodak set high standards for employee compensation and benefits, and generously giving back to the community. Kodak once touted itself as “America's storyteller.” Another apt moniker might have been “Rochester's beacon.” It's tragic to see this golden light fade from our horizon. We can only hope Kodak emerges from Chapter 11 to move successfully forward.
—Cynthia Otiso, Territory Manager, OnCell Systems, Pittsford
Although disappointed that Kodak had to take this step, I'm hopeful this move will allow the company to resolve many of its problems. I'm concerned for the retirees who this could affect. And I believe Kodak's management needs to move into the 21st century. Too many missed opportunities have left Kodak where it now finds itself—a victim of poor management.
Incredulous. Shareholders should hold accountable the management and board of directors for the mismanagement that has gone on for years. How do you squander a worldwide franchise that is Kodak?
—T.F. Zamiara, Westminster Consulting
In a way, it’s immaterial what happens to Kodak now. Kodak has already seeded scores and scores of new opportunities—new economic "green shoots" in the local economy that will exceed what Kodak was at its height. Kodak has been a massive catalyst for new ideas, new companies, new initiatives that will have long-term benefits to greater Rochester. It’s like a grand old tree that finally has fallen, and the compost from the tree will fertilize many new “green shoots”—new enterprises that will in time create another beneficial financial/economic forest for Rochester.
—Dennis Michaels, Dominion Rochester
I think it has great upside. It sets and clears a future direction for recovery and offers the opportunity for this great company to make the shift it needs to be viable. I'm confident that our resilient community and citizens, including Kodak employees, will make lemonade out of these potential lemons.
—Alan Ziegler, Rochester Area Business Ethics Foundation
Kodak's bankruptcy is a sad event for this community. Kodak put Rochester on the map and had a great run with film. But time and technology march on. It is such a shame that Kodak never capitalized on all the remarkable inventions that were created there over the years. Hindsight is 20/20, and it is pretty clear now that those steering that great company over the last 30 years ultimately ran it into the ground.
—George Thomas, Ogden
Sadness and anger at the dozens of corporate execs from Fisher to Perez who have pocketed tens of millions—maybe hundreds of millions of dollars—in the last two to three decades. Their workers in research and development invented all the corporate patents they own, including the digital camera, which they sat on until everyone else had the market share. More than 50,000 middle-class jobs gone and now the taxpayers and retirees at risk through the Pension Guarantee Corp. Our local business alliance with their partners, the bosses at the D&C editorial board, demand the highest level of accountability for tax dollars for public employees, and vilify them for making a middle class wage and a pension that keeps them from poverty. Where has their outrage been?
—Jim Bertolone, president, Rochester AFL-CIO
While it is sad, it was certainly not unexpected. Kodak has supported this community in countless ways (jobs, cultural and educational institutions, philanthropically, etc.) for decades. It is time for us to rally and support this pillar of our community as they go through this change and emerge stronger. As Rochester residents, we should be the first ones to buy Kodak products over the other options and show our support.
—Cheryl Yawman, practice director, Cochran Cochran & Yale
I do not think that Kodak can exit bankruptcy on a go-it-alone basis as the market for its print-to-paper products is rapidly declining due to changes in technology (i.e. iPad, Android-based systems, etc.). Kodak needs to form an alliance with one of its competitors based on Kodak’s digital patents, which are key to processing, saving, retrieving and displaying digital media and printing it to paper on an exception basis. If Kodak continues on its present course and fails to recognize the overall change of technology and methods of work underway in the marketplace, it will continue to burn through any additional money invested in the company.
We all have a stake in the future success of Kodak, which has played a major role in creating the quality of life that we have in this community. Synergy has benefited from a 40-year relationship with Kodak. We all have friends and family who are past and present employees of Kodak. We wish Kodak success in reorganizing and new growth opportunities in the years to come.
—Jim Stefano, president, Synergy Global Solutions
Kodak was so blinded by the profitability of film, that it was impossible for their leadership to transition to digital. “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”—Upton Sinclair
—C. Lewis, Xerox retiree, Perinton
I am a former Kodak employee and unfortunately I am not surprised. However, I am surprised that they did not take this action sooner. I think of Kodak as a patient. The company has been in critical condition for many years, had a few emergency surgeries and now the company is on life support. The Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection is a means to get the company well so that it can be healthier for the employees, shareholders and the community. The patient (Kodak) will die if Chapter 11 does not work and that would be a tragedy.
Obvious to any objective observer for at least the past year. Inevitable. How long will it be before the wrecking ball visits 343 State St.?
—Tom Shea, Thomas P. Shea Agency Inc.
I think Kodak should be broken up and some parts sold off. Perhaps the remaining part(s) can continue as Kodak. I am not optimistic.
—Mike Bleeg, Strategic Results
Under current executive leadership, it was an inevitable event for Kodak to file for bankruptcy. The same executive team will not be able to lead Kodak into any future other than depleting whatever remaining they can salvage (from) the company into cash. It is another icon of America succumbed to complacency, rear view leadership and lack of vision and appetite for risk. There was so much potential not just in the invention of digital camera but the latest in OLED technology that Kodak developed and handed over to others. It is sad to watch the decline of this once inventive organization into a me-too copycat.
—Patrick Ho, Rochester Optical
I’m sure it is the only smart move they can make, but it’s still tremendously sad. I think all of Rochester wishes them the best and hopes they come through this smarter and stronger.
A very sad day for the Eastman and Kodak legacy, the employees worldwide, the current shareholders and Rochester. Hopefully it will be a good move for the new Chapter 11 company.
Rochester’s brand is taking a beating. Recent articles in the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, the New York Times and Democrat and Chronicle have opined about the inevitable failure of Kodak, the formerly iconic producer of film. For now, the brands of Kodak and Rochester are inextricably linked. Is Kodak’s failure caused by Rochester or a corporate lack of vision? Is the Big Yellow Box headed for the recycling bin or the landfill? A central question in this debate has been whether Rochester is a place that can adapt or whether it is mired in the abject thinking that “we’ve done it this way for years.” Because Rochester is no longer a company town, it has to create its own distinctive brand. The Daily Beast reports that Rochester ranks No. 12 among U.S. cities in the number of patent applications and new patents issued (2010). Clearly, this is strong evidence of a culture of invention. A New York Times article states that in the last 30 years, employment in the region has grown from 414,400 to 503,200. The Rochester metropolitan area has the strongest job growth of upstate cities. In a region mired in economic doldrums, this demonstrates an extraordinary capacity to prosper in the face of adversity. Facts don’t change long-held perceptions, immediately. The facts do indicate that Rochester is a place of inventiveness. Scientists and engineers, in fields like printing and fuel cell technology, are creating new designs and proposing new applications. It’s also true that Kodak has a vault full of patents that it does not use. To create Brand Rochester, two things need to happen. First, forget about George Eastman and his legacy: rally behind a new visionary or a new vision of the region. Second, focus with laser precision on Rochester’s strengths: tenacity and invention. If you want to add “innovation” to that list, then Rochester leaders must demonstrate that they also possess the imagination to bring those inventions successfully to market.
—Brian Kane, Three Lakes Consulting
George Eastman was the greatest businessman in the history of Rochester. Today is the saddest day in Rochester business history. A combination of arrogance and lack of foresight by a string of CEOs and the board of directors prevented EK from reinventing itself. As an example, I worked for the Health Imaging Division for over 30 years. It had a history of good managers, scientists, engineers and a very capable work force. It recognized that digital was the future and was there in the forefront of health care and it made money. It was at a juncture where it needed more funding to compete at the very top of health care equipment and technology. So what did the CEO and board decide? Well, we can’t afford to fund health to the extent that is needed while we take on catching up in the world of digital photography and printing (where they were years behind the curve), so we will sell our most profitable business to ONEX, which created Carestream. “Mama, please don’t take my Kodachrome away”
The unthinkable has happened; as a city we can mourn what has been so much of our identity. Fortunately, the fact is that Rochester has weathered a storm that has been going on for about 20 years, and we have adapted accordingly and positively. In the long run, we’ll be much stronger for not being a one company town, but as company towns run, we did oh so well. Nostalgia is a useless emotion. Fortunately, we have the Kodak legacy that can move us into a creative, vibrant, venturous, philanthropic and financially sound future.
—Michael Patella, OSB, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minn.
I think Antonio Perez is Kodak’s second-worst CEO. The last good one was Kay Whitmore. He had the vision to acquire Sterling Drug and better position Kodak for the future. Kodak’s Legacy of Quality is in Every Item ended after Whitmore. At the time of gaining Sterling, most of us understood the need to sell the brands, talk them up whenever possible. Forty-seven thousand sales people. We were happy and eager to help our company. Kodak needs a new CEO who can show he cares and develop a positive initiative from within.
I see Kodak as a favorite old uncle suffering from a chronic wasting disease that every member of his extended family hopes will get better. Uncle Kodak started life as a healthy, active, creative, risk-taking hard worker. He was generous to a fault. However during mid- and late-life he took on bad habits as a reward for all his early success. He smoked, drank and stayed out late with women of a certain reputation. People outside the family gently reminded him that things were not as they used to be and maybe he should be open to new ways of thinking while weaning himself from bad habits. But he didn’t listen. I guess he recalled his glory days and just couldn’t see the world around him change so dramatically, so quickly. To be fair, most of his close friends, Messrs: Ford, GM, Chrysler, Banker and Trader and many more of his generation, had similar (afflictions). Some were very, very lucky they were infused with a magic elixir from Uncle Sam that had great restorative powers. Soon his friends are up and about. Unfortunately the magic potion ran out, and now Mr. Kodak will have to recover on his own, hopefully, more humble and wise. I wish him the greatest of luck and say my prayers that he gets up on his feet again, with new insight and vigor.
—Frank Orienter, Rochester
Although Kodak has reduced the workforce and made other cuts in its operation, it still has a place in the hearts of most of the Rochesterians and those in surrounding counties. Certainly our federal government has made major loans to other firms. If it appears that their current actions are realistic, then I would be all for Kodak’s moves to try to save the company by going through bankruptcy.
—Bruce Bowen, retired
What to? What viable business they think they have? It has been well established and made known publicly since 1999 that Kodak would not survive by changing solely to digital imaging. Its finances vs. Sony, H-P and others, have been too small to compete. Kodak’s only strength was in chemical systems, and they destroyed this strength. Kodak had absolutely no technical standing in the electronic and digital area, in spite of its uninformed announcements. Only defending the niche of their highly profitable film could save them. The management and researchers in their arrogance ignored any strength that film has over electronic imaging and where they have advantages to fight off digital. That means looking where film is stronger than digital, not uselessly bemoaning where digital has significant and insurmountable advantages for film. Actually, Kodak did go through similar problems when Xerox wanted to replace highly profitable black-and-white film with their system. Instead, Xerox moved into an unoccupied area and it and others are doing well. All along B&W film continued to make huge profits for Kodak in spite of xerography. The demise of Kodak was inevitable, and is 100 percent due to the incompetence—technically, product-informed, and financially—of its top leadership. There is no chance that Kodak will find a profitable niche in digital imaging that is not already covered by highly competent competitors that are already in these businesses. A long gone competitor in Binghamton went into making roofing-paper.
—Ingo H. Leubner, Crystallization Consulting
As a lifetime Rochesterian, I am so sad to see this day come to our city. However, when the digital era came and Kodak lagged behind the times, I think we all saw the eventual writing on the wall. Leadership lacked vision and that is what truly led to this unfortunate outcome. Many other companies have filed Chapter 11 and used it as a springboard to get back on track. We can only hope Kodak has some brilliant plan to diversify and gain market share once again. My heart goes out to the existing employees and retirees whose futures are uncertain. May the decisions favor them for their loyalty through the past years of turmoil caused by poor planning on the Kodak leadership team. Having been laid off three times myself, I hope they are all able to make lemonade out of this sourful situation. It is amazing how resilient we are, however, as a community and I give a shout out to the entrepreneurial spirit we are blessed with. I’ve been in advertising and marketing for over 30 years and have the upmost respect and appreciation for the small- and medium-business owners in this city. Carpe diem to all!
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