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Friday, January 20, 2012

Photography pioneer Kodak files for long-expected bankruptcy

LOS ANGELES – Eastman Kodak Co., a vanguard name in photography, finally filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Thursday following falling sales and rising speculation about its ability to stay afloat.

The long-anticipated announcement came after weeks of early eulogies about the faded glory of the former trailblazer, once an American mainstay with products such Kodachrome photographic film and Instamatic cameras.

But printed photos seem well on their way to becoming a hipster curiosity as digital technologies – which originated at Kodak decades ago – now dominate on smartphones and, to a shrinking degree, cameras. The company, which was also exposed to heavy foreign competition and dwindling customers, has watched its liquidity situation worsen for years.

Even New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo paid his respects, saying in a statement Thursday that the reorganization “is difficult and disappointing news” for Rochester, N.Y., the company’s base of operations.

The iconic 132-year-old brand, still considered by many to be among the most recognizable in the world, lumped itself and its U.S. subsidiaries into the filing in federal bankruptcy court in New York. Kodak plans to continue operating through the restructuring with the help of an 18-month, $950 million credit facility from Citigroup.

Chief Executive Antonio M. Perez called the Chapter 11 filing “a necessary step and the right thing to do for the future of Kodak,” adding that the reorganization is expected to wrap up in 2013.

Since 2003, the company has laid off 47,000 workers and shuttered 13 manufacturing plants and 130 processing labs. Executives are now hoping that its digital and printing technologies – which last year accounted for 75 percent of its revenue – will be the key to future profitability.