Polaroid is an American company that is a brand licensor and marketer of its portfolio of consumer electronics to companies that distribute consumer electronics and eyewear. It is best known for its Polaroid instant film and cameras. In 2000, its parent company was acquired by Polish investor Oskar Smołokowski.
|Founded||Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.; 1937|
|Founder||Edwin H. Land|
|Headquarters||Minnetonka, Minnesota, U.S.|
|Scott W. Hardy (CEO), Oskar Smołokowski (owner)|
|Parent||PLR IP Holdings, LLC|
The company was founded in 1937 by Edwin H. Land, to exploit the use of its Polaroid polarizing polymer.:3 Land ran the company until 1981. Its peak employment was 21,000 in 1978, and its peak revenue was $3 billion in 1991.
When the original Polaroid Corporation was declared bankrupt in 2001, its brand and assets were sold off. The "new" Polaroid formed as a result, itself declared bankruptcy in 2008, resulting in a further sale and the formation of the present-day Polaroid Corporation. In May 2017, the brand and intellectual property of Polaroid Corporation were acquired by the largest shareholder of the Impossible Project, which had originally started out in 2008 by producing new instant films for Polaroid cameras. The Impossible Project was renamed Polaroid Originals in September 2017.
Growth under its founder
The original Polaroid Corporation was founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts, by Edwin Land in 1937. Described by The Boston Globe as a "juggernaut of innovation", in many respects Polaroid was the Apple of its time with a "leader in Edwin Land, a scientist who guided the company as the founding CEO for four decades". Polaroid’s initial market was in polarized sunglasses — spawned from Land’s self-guided research in light polarization. Land, having completed his freshman year at Harvard University, left to pursue this market, resulting in Polaroid's birth. Land later returned to Harvard to continue his research. Polaroid, owning patents to its polarizer technology, got its start by employing polarization in products that included 3-D movies and glare-reducing goggles for dogs. During World War II, Polaroid designed and manufactured numerous products for the armed services including an infrared night viewing device. He led the company as CEO for 43 years. He headed the Polaroid Corporation, developing it from a small research and marketing firm into a well known high-tech company. Kodak was a customer for some of Land's polarizing products. Recognized by most as the father of instant photography, he included all the operations of a darkroom inside the film itself. Land was pictured on the cover of Life magazine in 1972 with the inscription, "A Genius and His Magic Camera".
In the 1940s, Polaroid purchased the B and B Chemical Company building at 784 Memorial Drive in Cambridge, Massachusetts for its headquarters. The landmark Streamline Moderne style structure would be added to the National Register of Historic Places listings in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1982.
When Kodak announced instant film cameras in 1976, Polaroid announced they were suing them, accusing Kodak of having stolen its patented instant photography process. In the two years that followed the lawsuit, total sales of instant cameras climbed from 7.4 million cameras in 1976 to 10.3 million in 1977 and 14.3 million in 1978. The suit in federal court lasted 10 years. Polaroid asked for $12 billion for infringements of its patents by Kodak. The court ruled in favor of Polaroid, and ordered Kodak to cease instant picture production, plus pay Polaroid $909.5 million of the $12 billion it had asked for.
In 1977, Land introduced the Polaroid Instant Home Movie camera named Polavision, based on the Dufaycolor process. However, the product arrived on the market when videotape-based systems were rapidly gaining popularity. Thus it failed to sell well in retail stores and has been described as the swan song for Polaroid. After four decades as chairman, Edwin Land was coerced into resigning and leaving the corporation he had founded. He died in 1991. The Polavision debacle eventually caused the company to write off $89 million, including most of the manufactured products. The underlying technology of Polavision was later improved for use in the Polachrome instant slide film system.
In the 1980s, Polaroid tried to reinvent itself without Land at its helm by shifting away from a dependence on consumer photography, a market which was in steady decline. Polaroid was forced to make wholesale changes that included having to fire thousands of workers and close many factories. The 1990s saw the advent of new technologies that profoundly changed the world of photography — one-hour color film processing, single-use cameras from competitors, videotape camcorders, and digital cameras.
They also made 35 mm and multi format scanners, such as Polaroid SprintScan 4000 35 mm scanner (the first scanner with a 4000 DPI CCD) in 1999, and the Polaroid PrintScan 120 in 2000. The scanners received mixed reviews and saw heavy competition from Nikon and Minolta products. The entire line was discontinued when Polaroid entered bankruptcy in 2001.
Bankruptcy and the "new" Polaroid Corporation
"Chapter 11" controversy
The original Polaroid Corporation filed for federal bankruptcy protection on October 11, 2001. The outcome was that within ten months, most of the business (including the "Polaroid" name itself and non-bankrupt foreign subsidiaries) had been sold to Bank One's One Equity Partners (OEP). OEP Imaging Corporation then changed its name to Polaroid Holding Company (PHC). However, this new company operated using the name of its bankrupt predecessor, Polaroid Corporation.
Significant criticism surrounded this "takeover" because the process left executives of the company with large bonuses, while stockholders, as well as current and retired employees, were left with nothing. The company announced a plan that gave the top 45 executives bonuses just for staying at their jobs. Meanwhile, other employees were restricted from selling their stock before leaving their jobs.:31
As part of the settlement, the original Polaroid Corporation changed its name to Primary PDC, Inc. Having sold its assets, it was now effectively nothing more than an administrative shell. Primary PDC received approximately 35 percent of the "new" Polaroid, which was to be distributed to its unsecured creditors (including bondholders). As of late 2006, Primary PDC remained in existence under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, but conducts no commercial business and has no employees.
Polaroid’s bankruptcy is widely attributed to the failure of senior management — unable to anticipate the impact of digital cameras on its film business. This type of managerial failure is also known as the success trap.
Use of Polaroid brand following bankruptcy
After the bankruptcy, the Polaroid brand was licensed for use on other products with the assistance of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. In September 2002, World Wide Licenses, a subsidiary of The Character Group plc, was granted the exclusive rights for three years to manufacture and sell digital cameras under the Polaroid brand for distribution internationally. Polaroid branded LCDs and plasma televisions and portable DVD players had also appeared on the market.
On April 27, 2005, Petters Group Worldwide announced its acquisition of PHC. Petters has in the past bought up failed companies with well-known names for the value of those names. The same year, Flextronics purchased Polaroid's manufacturing operations and the decision was made to send most of the manufacturing to China. It stopped making Polaroid cameras in 2007 and discontinued the sale of Polaroid film after 2009 to the dismay of loyal consumers. On December 18, 2008, the post-reorganization Polaroid Corp. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Minnesota. The bankruptcy filing came shortly after the criminal investigation of its parent company, Petters Group Worldwide, and the parent company founder, Tom Petters.
Auction for Polaroid Corporation's assets
On April 2, 2009, Patriarch Partners won an auction for Polaroid Corporation's assets including the company's name, intellectual property, and photography collection. Patriarch's $59.1 million bid beat bids from PHC Acquisitions, Hilco Consumer Capital Corp and Ritchie Capital.
This led to some very contentious fighting and litigation, and Patriarch wound up walking away in early May, 2009, and a joint venture between Gordon Brothers Brands LLC and Hilco Consumer Capital LP picked up the pieces. Quoting from a Reuters report which quoted some participants:
The move by New York-based Patriarch, a private-equity firm, [to drop their claim], follows US District Judge James Rosenbaum's ruling on Thursday in Minneapolis that putting the purchase on hold during appeal would threaten operations at Polaroid, which is spending its cash at a rate of $3 million a month.
Hilco Consumer Capital and Gordon Brothers Brands announced the closing of the purchase of Polaroid Corporation on May 7, 2009, placing Polaroid Corporation in joint holding under a parent company named PLR IP Holdings, LLC. Former Executive Vice President and General Manager – Americas, Scott W. Hardy was named as the new President of Polaroid Corporation and PLR IP Holdings, LLC. The majority of employees remained in their positions at the company's Minnetonka, Minnesota headquarters as well as office locations in Boston, New York and Toronto.
On June 19, 2009, the new holding corporation for Polaroid, PLR IP Holdings, LLC announced an exclusive 5-year agreement with Summit Global Group to produce and distribute Polaroid-branded digital still cameras, digital video cameras, digital photo frames and PoGo-branded mobile products. Summit Global Group added several former Polaroid employees to their staff. The company expects the agreement to yield $1.3 billion in retail sales over an unspecified period beginning in 2009.
On January 5, 2010, Polaroid appointed Lady Gaga as "Creative Director" for the company. A press release stated that she would be the "new face" of Polaroid.
Acquisition by Smołokowski; collaboration with and rebranding of "Impossible"
In 2017, the holding corporation for Polaroid, PLR IP Holdings, LLC, was acquired by Polish investor Oskar Smołokowski. The last factory producing Polaroid instant picture film cartridges in Enschede, Netherlands, under the trademark Impossible, which had already been led by Smołokowski as CEO, was rebranded to Polaroid Originals later in 2017.
As of March 2019, the "new" polaroid.com website lists instant cameras and supplies made by Polaroid Originals alongside its other products including digital cameras, sunglasses, the Cube action camera, and television units.
Corporate sponsorship of motorsports
In the 1990s, Polaroid was involved in corporate sponsorship of NASCAR. For several years, Polaroid was the principal sponsor of NASCAR's 125 mile Featherlite Modified race at Watkins Glen and it was called the "Polaroid 125". The Polaroid name was also used in sponsorship in the NASCAR Busch Series. In 1992, Polaroid was the principal sponsor of female NASCAR driver Shawna Robinson's #25 Oldsmobile in the Busch Series. They continued as her principal sponsor when she moved to the other car numbers in 1993 and 1994.
Polaroid formerly sponsored the Target Chip Ganassi entry of Juan Pablo Montoya's #42 Chevy Impala in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and entries in the IRL Indy Car Series, including the car driven by Dario Franchitti.
Discontinuation and planned relaunch of Polaroid film
On February 8, 2008, Polaroid (under the control of Thomas J. Petters of Petters Group Worldwide) announced that the company has decided to gradually cease production and withdraw from analog instant film products completely in 2008. Since March 2010, instant film materials for vintage Polaroid cameras have again become available on the market, developed and manufactured by a group called The Impossible Project, at the former Polaroid production plant in Enschede, Netherlands.
Austrian photographer Florian Kaps, the owner of the largest online vendor for SX-70 films and organizer of the web-based instant photo gallery Polanoid.net, had bought the approximately 500,000 film packages that were on stock. He teamed with André Bosman, a former head of film production in the large Polaroid film factory at Enschede, designed a plan to redesign the SX-70/600 film system in collaboration with Ilford Photo, and convinced the Polaroid owners to participate. Plans for a relaunch under the Impossible label were announced in January 2009. Buildings in the Enschede plant, which had produced 30 million film packs in 2007 and 24 million in the first half of 2008, were leased to the company created by Kaps, who by May 2009 had raised $2.6 million from friends and family for what he had named The Impossible Project.
On March 22, 2010, The Impossible Project announced the release of two monochromatic films, PX100 and PX600, compatible with SX-70 and 600 type cameras, respectively. Color films were initially released in 2010 for SX-70 type cameras, followed in 2011 with the release of much improved color films for Polaroid 600, SX-70 and Spectra Cameras.
Polaroid had originally announced a new camera, styled after older models to coincide with the new films, but this was due before Christmas 2010—a deadline which passed with no new information on this new camera.
On April 28, 2012, the documentary "Time Zero: The Last Year of Polaroid Film", directed by Grant Hamilton, was released in the U.S. It covers the rise, fall, and grass-roots revival of Polaroid's instant film technology.
In summer 2008 Polaroid released the PoGo, an instant photo printer producing 2 by 3 inches (51 mm × 76 mm) prints. It uses the Zink ("zero ink") technology which is similar to dye sublimation but has the dye crystals embedded in the photo paper itself. Models CZA-10011B and CZA-20011B exist (which Polaroid claim to be identical).
In 2011, the company released the Polaroid GL10 Instant Mobile Printer producing 3 by 4 inch prints. The printer, designed by Polaroid and Lady Gaga, allows people to print directly from a mobile phone or digital camera. This product is the first product in the new Polaroid Grey Label line.
In January 2012, Polaroid announced a new "smart camera", entitled the Polaroid SC1630 smart camera, which is powered by Google Android. The SC1630 is a combination of a camera and a portable media player, that allows users to take photos with a built-in 16 MP HD camera, download apps from Google Play, check their email, and browse the web. The built-in camera allows 3X optical zoom. Other features on the media player include wi-fi, touch screen, geotagging, smart albums, and 32 GB of memory via a micro SD card.
In September 2014 Polaroid introduced a $99 action camera named the "Polaroid Cube", marketed as an alternative to cameras such as the GoPro Hero (which retails for $129), specifically for casual, light users of action camcorders. In 2015 GoPro released the similar GoPro HERO4 Session.
In March 2006, the specialist design and development department in Polaroid's Vale of Leven plant in Scotland was bought out by its management team. Known as Wideblue the company specializes in helping small technology based companies develop products and manufacturing processes.
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Substantially all of the assets of Polaroid Corporation were sold to OEP Imaging Operating Corporation (OEPI) on July 31, 2002. As part of the agreement, OEPI changed its name to Polaroid Corporation and the "former" Polaroid Corporation changed its name to Primary PDC, Inc. [which] operates under the protection of Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code and is responsible for [administration] related to the "former" Polaroid Corporation.
- "Frequently Asked Questions". Primary PDC Website. Archived from the original on 2008-01-29. Retrieved 2016-06-24.
On July 31, 2002, OEP Imaging Corporation (OEP) acquired substantially all the assets of Polaroid Corporation. OEP then changed its name to Polaroid Holding Company (New Polaroid) and Polaroid Corporation changed its name to Primary PDC, Inc. (Old Polaroid). [..] Old Polaroid no longer conducts commercial business and has no employees.
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PLR IP Holdings, LLC, owners of the Polaroid™ brand, today announced a multi-year strategic partnership with Lady Gaga, who will serve as creative director for a specialty line of Polaroid Imaging products.
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- "Time Zero Movie". Time Zero Movie. Retrieved April 3, 2015.
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- "What is the difference between a CZA-10011, CZA-20011 and a PoGo Printer?". PLR Ecommerce. Archived from the original on January 17, 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
PoGo printer is the common name for the original Polaroid Instant Mobile printer which produces 2*3 instant prints. CZA-10011 and CZA-20011 are model numbers for the PoGo Printer and differ only in their packaging.
- Polaroid CZA-05300B digital camera with integrated printer
- Staff, Voxy. "Lady Gaga Launches Mobile Printer Archived April 16, 2016, at the Wayback Machine." September 14, 2011. Retrieved September 15, 2011.
- Polaroid t1035 digital camera
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- Alvarez, Edgar. "IRL: The Polaroid Cube is a tiny camera that leaves you wanting more". Retrieved April 3, 2015.
- talentscotland. "Wideblue in Management Buy-out". www.wide-blue.com. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Polaroid.|
- Wideblue – Former specialist design and development department at Vale of Leven plant
- Polaroid page at camerapedia.org
- "The Polaroid genius who re-imagined the way we take photos" (video). Instant: The Story of Polaroid, author Christopher Bonanos compares the company's dynamic founder, Edwin Land, with Apple's iconic inventor, Steve Jobs. BBC News Online. 2013-01-23. Retrieved 2013-01-26.
- Analysis of the Polaroid bankruptcy (cfo.com)- includes discussion of the role of Polaroid executives in the bankruptcy proceedings.
- Polaroid & Corporate Bankruptcy statement – by U.S. congressman, Bill Delahunt.
- The Branding of Polaroid – Paul Giambarba on Polaroid's branding, including background information on the company.
- Polaroid shutting 2 Mass. facilities, laying off 150, The Boston Globe, 2008-02-08, history and future of the company after ceasing its manufacturing of instant film technology.
Archives and records
- Polaroid Revolutionary Workers Movement at the African Activist Archive Project – Material associated with protests against Polaroid's association with apartheid-era South Africa
- Polaroid Corporation Administrative records at Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School
- Polaroid Corporation Legal and Patent records at Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School
- Polaroid Corporation Research and Development records at Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School
- Polaroid Corporation Records Related to Edwin H. Land at Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School
- Polaroid Corporation Audiovisual records at Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School
- Polaroid Corporation Records Related to Meroe Morse at Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School