New CEO Jeff Clarke Excited About Kodak Reboot

Jeff Clarke

The marching orders for Jeff Clarke are succinct yet clear. The new CEO of Eastman Kodak has been charged with delivering growth to the beleaguered technology firm. But, in the process, he’s not being asked to turn water into wine.

Kodak is backing Clarke, who succeeds Antonio Perez, in the form of $90 million tabbed for research and development and another $50 million in capital expenditures for 2014. During a call with industry media last week, Clarke said he believes that “with the combination of our portfolio and breakthrough products, global reach, powerful brand and strong customer base, we are positioned to deliver future growth.”

Clarke had spent the previous 10 years working in Silicon Valley and in a sense considers Kodak to be something of a startup company. It is, after all, a company with a new CEO and board of directors, with a somewhat new stock (out nine months) with a new investor base. Plus, the company is much more compact with just 8,000 employees, in stark contrast to the scale Kodak operated on in the past.

“We’ve broke out, for the first time explicitly, what we call our strategic technology businesses,” Clarke states. “This is the part of the company that I view as a startup. Digital printing, packaging business, functional printing, enterprise services, IP and brand licensing, and our graphics and workflow software. Those are the startup businesses.

“We’re fortunate that the business is almost $2 billion and we have a great set of customers. When you look at product development in these businesses, it’s all about growth. These are businesses we expect, in each category, to grow significantly over next the several years. They require a lot of investment going forward, and that’s the investment were putting in place.”

One of the goals for 2014, according to Clarke, is to double the install base of the Kodak Prosper digital press to approximately 40. Functional printing boasts high growth potential, he says, and two major partners will help Kodak leverage these opportunities in an area “not traditionally in Kodak’s space.”

Further, Sonora plates grew 40 percent in 2013 and now represent 10 percent of Kodak’s overall plate business. He believes the chemistry-free solution will see another 40 percent boost on tap for 2014.

And as someone who has a background in software, Clarke is excited about Kodak’s Prinergy print production workflow solution. “It is great to have a product that is a leader in its category.”

In the end, Clarke—who also serves as the chairman of Orbitz— believes Kodak is one of the world’s most recognized brands, and his intention is to see the company return to its former glory—Reporting by Erik Cagle, Senior Editor.

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