Film News: Is Kodak having a moment?

[OP-ED]

There has been news in the last few days that came as a surprise to the general public, that Kodak still exists. But seriously, Kodak has made the international headlines, but maybe not for the reasons some of us hoped or expected.

The news came to me via an article on Slate this morning, which you can read here

The gist of it being that Kodak is going to receive a huge amount of money from the US Govt. under the Defense Production Act. And when I say yuuuge it is an eye watering $765 million USD. And the reason for this is that Kodak is going to start making Hydroxychloroquine for the USA (despite there being zero peer reviewed evidence that it is effective in treating Covid-19). So it seems that the Orange Bad Man saw what Fujifilm was up to with their drug research, remembered a name from the eighties and threw money at it.

But this isn’t the story, not even close. Though obviously that kind of money for snake oil should be under closer scrutiny, but anyway so much to do….

(speaking of snake oil, Fujifilm might want to keep its head down for a while)

The story is that Kodak’s share price went through the damned roof, past the clouds and startled a satellite upon announcement of this. At last close of trading the share price was 1481% higher than a week ago. Which is high enough that it repeatedly set off circuit breakers during trading.

Kodak went from being a billion dollar company, to being bankrupt, to a millions of dollars company that was bleeding money, to a billion dollar company again. Phew, that must be fun for the pension holders.

So some people out there have made themselves an insane amount of money in the last week. From a company that the general public thought was long gone. Some people like the CEO, who made $220 million this week after buying up over 46,000 shares last month. Talk about timing. No seriously, someone needs to talk to him about the timing because that looks seriously suss. (As of writing the COE has categorically denied any impropriety)

Of course this isn’t Kodak’s first dalliance with some shady business dealings. How can we forget the failed Bitcoin mining debacle with the Kodak KashMiner? Because that worked out really well. 

But what does this mean for us? The film photographers and Kodak followers through thick and thin? Well, it could mean a lot more than we think. If there has been insider trading or other impropriety – and I should stress for the record, there is no proof that there has been – then that could be hugely damaging for Kodak. And Kodak wasn’t exactly on sturdy foundations before all of this. Kodak has been losing money for a long time and throwing money at the company without any oversight, by a Government that seems to revel in open corruption is a very bad combo.

https://www.transparency.org/en/press/2019-cpi-us-hits-new-low#

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/2/3/21100092/us-trump-kleptocracy-corruption-tax-havens

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/04/how-to-destroy-a-government/606793/

Could it be that vulture capitalists be the final nail for Kodak? I certainly hope that is not the case. What concerns me is that if Kodak is damaged the public perception could be equally as damaging for the business. Kodak is a name that is synonymous with film photography. To lose the trust in the public would be immensely damaging to the industry.

But there could be a glimmer of hope. Would Kodak be broken up again? A slimmed down company run by people who truly care about the film business would not be a bad thing at all. And who knows, it might lead to a opening in the market for any enterprising individual who wants to set up their own film business ;)

JCH