Maybe you noticed this story around and about this morning:
Eastman Kodak Co, which invented the hand-held camera and helped bring the world the first pictures from the moon, has filed for bankruptcy protection, capping a prolonged plunge for one of America’s best-known companies.
No doubt there’ll be a lot of sic-transit-gloria-mundi-ing going on over the next few days, but that’s not the Sign that caught my eye. There are plenty of companies around today that aren’t doing what they were set up for any more*, and it’s Kodak’s own fault for failing to see the end of film and preparing itself adequately. Shell doesn’t transport or trade very many shells these days. And – one for my fellow jocks – it was only John Menzies’ retail arm that was taken over by WHSmith back in the ’90s: the firm’s still around, doing corporate logistics and whatnot. I saw one of their crates just the other day, in fact.
No, the bit that struck me as significant was right at the bottom of the Fox Business piece. Here it is:
It is unclear how Kodak will address its pension obligations, many of which were built up decades ago when U.S. manufacturers offered more generous retirement and medical benefits than they do now.
Remind you of anyone we know?
The company had promised to inject $800 million over the next decade into its UK pension fund. It now remains unclear how that country’s pension regulator might seek to preserve some or all of the company’s obligations to British pensioners.
Yeah, tricky one, that. I wonder if the difficulty of paying out money that doesn’t exist will penetrate any bureaucratic skulls.
*On the other hand, the Aberdeen Shore Porters’ Society was founded in 1498, and is still porting stuff around the shore at Aberdeen (and elsewhere). It’s often cited as being the oldest company in the world, although, as you can tell from the name, the definition of “company” gets a bit murky when you go that far back. Until 1850 it was a sort of co-op under the control of the Town Council. Still, even 160 years as an independent business is pretty impressive.