M&T Bank CEO Rene Jones is considering a plan to take Kodak private

March 12, 2022 — M&T Bank CEO Rene Jones is widely rumored to be considering a not-so-hostile acquisition of Rochester’s legendary Eastman Kodak Company, in a plan that would take the firm private in order to insulate it from the pressures of quarterly earnings targets.  Such a deal could give the firm time to be aggressively repositioned and postured for multi-sector growth without the distractions of quarterly earnings expectations.

Jones is believed to disagree with the strategy being pursued by Kodak CEO Jim Continenza, which has been to streamline the firm’s businesses and focus it on what he believes to be Kodak’s core competencies: industrial print and packaging.  He even canceled a project to launch a line of smartphones, which Kodak had been prototyping. While the firm books just over $1 billion in annual revenue, its operating loss this year was more than $544 million, and the firm’s market capitalization (as of the close of business on March 11th) is barely $350 million.

In terms of price, Eastman Kodak would be one of M&T’s lesser acquisitions.  But in terms of corporate aspirations, it could be a key inflection point in the firm’s evolution into what one observer calls “a fully-fledged industrial conglomerate”, merely part of which is finance.  Those familiar with his thinking explain that the corporate model is prevalent in Japan — with financial institutions like Mitsubishi and Sumitomo, which have taken controlling positions in industrial, automotive, energy, and infrastructure companies.

M&T Bank has been investing heavily in fin-tech innovation and enhancing its capacity to spawn new technologies and consumer product offerings.  A new Innovation Hub at the Seneca Tower in downtown Buffalo has just opened in recent months.  While the commercial bank will forever be at the core of M&T and its brand, he expects it to evolve into an industrial conglomerate.  Jones believes that ongoing tensions with Russia and China will drive the on-shoring of industrial supply chains.

As it is being currently contemplated, M&T Bank would acquire the entirety of Kodak at $4.50 a share and would take it private as immediately as is practicable.  Meanwhile, M&T would install a new Board and executive team.  Softbank Capital‘s Jordan Levy, the prolific Buffalo-based venture capitalist and tech executive, is being discussed to lead the turnaround as Chairman and CEO of Eastman Kodak Holdings, an investment vehicle that would be set up by the M&T Bank Corporation to accommodate the acquisition.

While Jones wants to aggressively grow Kodak’s industrial print and packaging businesses — and is even willing to keep Continenza on as the President of the firm’s print and packaging divisions — he sees the firm more broadly as an optics and technology company, and wants to reposition it as such across various industries.

Jones sees the firm as having industrial applications in defense contracting, pharmaceutical manufacturing, infrastructure systems, software, electronics, and consumer appliances.

Kodak CEO Jim Continenza was criticized by the New York Attorney General for purchasing 46,000 shares of Kodak stock last summer while the company was engaged in discussions with the federal government over a proposed $655 million contract to produce chemicals needed to make pharmaceuticals. Letitia James alleges Continenza made “subsequent false statements to investors about that trading, just before its annual meeting of shareholders.”

 

3 Comments

  1. Oh, here we go again, let’s reinvent Kodak to do something else useless like consumer appliances? What a joke. And, if you think to grow the current print and packaging orgs then start with acquiring educated people and unload the “award show seat fillers” that occupy product management and development positions. All talent to drive that business forward has left the building and moved on, myself included. But, for sure get rid of Continuntza ASAFP.

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