At a hastily called press conference on Thursday, Eastman Kodak announced it would sell its print-film business and several other related businesses to raise additional funds. The endangered imaging giant made the move public in the last days of its patent portfolio auction, which is possibly not raising as much cash as Kodak initially planned. Kodak's businesses up for sale include heavy-duty commercial scanners with embedded optical character recognition for form processing, a business that takes photos of theme park visitors, and kiosks that print digital photos.
"We have to make tough choices to build our future and this is one of those choices," Kodak Chief Executive Antonio Perez said during today's conference. Kodak announced plans to shut down production of digital camera, video cameras, and digital picture frames in February in an attempt to shed nonprofitable aspects of business. In April, Kodak sold photo-sharing site Shutterfly for $23.8 million.
The company is scheduled to appear before federal bankruptcy Judge Allan Gropper on August 30. Kodak is in the middle of an extended digital imaging patent portfolio auction in an attempt to raise billions of dollars to pay back the lenders that supported it through its Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The August 30 hearing date suggests that Kodak expects to have the auction process wrapped up by August 23, as according to the auction instructions, the company has to give at least seven days notice of an auction conclusion hearing. Apple, Google, Samsung, LG, and an assortment of other firms are bidding as a group on Kodak's digital imaging patents according to reports. While Apple has often been in conflict with Google and Samsung, and is a rival to LG, the strategy could keep the patents out of any one party's hands, preventing some potential lawsuits.
Kodak has stated that talks with potential patent buyers are still ongoing, and that it isn't ready to announce a result, but the court date announcement suggests that an announcement could be made soon. It could still refuse to sell some or all of the patents, although that may be unlikely, since the motivation for the auction is the company's recent bankruptcy.
Regarding the patent sale, Perez complained that "We expected this to be a complex process, and it has been all of that and more." A deal for the entire Kodak portfolio on auction could be valued at over $500 million based on recent negotiations.