In a move that will upset many and surprise very few, Olympus is selling its camera business to an investment firm. In short, Olympus, a beloved brand that has been making cameras since 1936, is no longer in the camera industry.
Olympus’s camera division had survived various catastrophes in recent years, including several accounting scandals — one of which led to a fine of $646 million — that some thought might irreversibly impair the company. A year ago it was reported that the photography branch of Olympus had incurred $157 million in losses and in November it was rumored that Olympus would be selling off its camera division in as little as eight months.
A mere seven months after politely denying these rumors, Olympus’s camera business is in the process of being sold to Japan Industrial Partners. The Verge reports that this deal is expected to be completed later this year. The value of the sale is yet to be announced, but details will become clear when the definitive agreement is signed at the end of September.
The announcement from Olympus details some of its previous efforts to counter the dramatically shrinking camera industry that has been effectively decimated by the rise of the smartphone, market saturation, and a failure to produce equipment that integrates seamlessly with an increasingly online world.
Olympus has confidence that JIP will “utilize the innovative technology and unique product development capabilities which have been developed within Olympus, and will realize continuous growth of the business by bringing better products and services to the users and customers.” In effect, while Olympus is divesting itself of its consumer photography equipment, production will continue under new ownership. The new company will “maintain the research and development” and “continue to offer high-quality, highly reliable products.”
The announcement also describes structuring reforms to make the new business “profitable and sustainable,” and one imagines that this may involve job losses, office closures, and reduced output.
While cameras with the Olympus name seem set to continue for the immediate future, this marks an incredibly sad day in the camera industry. What do the coming years hold for the new investors, and what should their strategy be? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.