Prof Disputes Analysis of Kodak’s Lowest Moment

At the beginning of the week, Financial Times reporter Tony Jackson surmised that the downfall of Kodak had to do with the arrival of “disruptive technology.” Faced with the disappearance of film and the replacement of traditional cameras by dozens of digital devices, Jackson argued that then-chairman George Fisher fumbled the techno ball.

Not so fast, responds University of Toronto business school professor Charles McMillan. Via a succinct letter to the editor, he suggests that technology is but one of the reasons why Kodak stock now sells for around a dollar:

Kodak assumed that it owned the US camera market. But when the Olympics were held in Los Angeles in 1984, Fuji, not Kodak, became the sponsor. That was the signal that Fuji was taking on Kodak frontally in the US market.

Kodak, typical of too many companies, appealed to government for protection and filed lawsuits, claiming that Japan was a closed market… Kodak lost the court cases, the US government stood hapless, and Kodak sold its medical imaging division to Canada’s Onex Corporation, which merged it with a company in Israel.

McMillan concludes that far too often, media analysis ignores the “pathologies of bad management, poor corporate governance, and the failure to play the global game.” As such, his letter is worth a thousand photos, digital or otherwise.

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