Jeffrey Clarke, Eastman Kodak (NYSE:KODK)
When Eastman Kodak (NYSE:KODK) tapped Jeff Clarke, a former technology executive and private investment partner as CEO last month, it was a clear sign that the 126-year-old photographic film company saw its future in technology.
Clarke takes the helm from Antonio Pérez, Kodak’s president since 2003 and CEO since 2005. Those were tough years by any measure, since Kodak not only was late to the digital camera market, but Pérez had to shut down factories and heavily outsource to cut costs on low-margin products and processes.
By January 2012, Kodak filed for bankruptcy but creditors gave it a small but significant life vest: 18 months and $950 million to come up with a reorganization plan that could help Kodak rise from the ashes. The new Kodak is a technology company focused on digital imaging and graphics for business users — a focus that seems to leverage Clarke’s background and strengths. The particular value proposition Clarke brings to the table is in the area of business-to-business (B2B) technology product strategy and marketing.
In January, Kodak was relisted on the NYSE under the ticker KODK and for now, the company’s future is in commercial printing with a twist. The company’s Prosper Press Platform, launched last year, is being marketed as a “high-performance solution for a range of digital printing applications, such as direct marketing, commercial print, and publishing.”
One key challenge for Clarke will be convincing potential B2B customers that KODK’s intelligent printing system is really a paradigm leap from existing technology and processes. If not, innovative processes that could provide a foundation for touch sensors and applications in commercial printing could fall victim to low-margin commodity pricing.
Clarke’s tech industry background at Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) and CA, Inc. (NASDAQ:CA) gives him a solid understanding of the perils of a rapidly changing technology landscape, while his experience as Managing Partner of Augusta Columbia Capital keeps him well grounded in the need to deliver shareholder value.
Still, births are a lot easier than resurrections — Clarke might not have an abundance of time to get KODK’s restart picture perfect.
As of this writing, Susan J. Aluise did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.