For the second consecutive year, Eastman Kodak Co.’s struggles loomed large over the Rochester business world.
The saga of Kodak filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and the company’s effort to sell some of its assets ranked as the No. 1 business story of 2012 in a poll of Rochester Business Journal readers. The story of Kodak’s financial woes also was the No. 1 story of 2011.
The Kodak story got more than twice as many votes as the second-place story-Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., winning re-election over Republican Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks in the newly drawn 25th Congressional District.
The story of Kodak’s bankruptcy also ranked No. 1 in the annual poll of the RBJ’s editorial staff members.
Kodak began 2012 as many analysts had predicted. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Jan. 19 with expectations to complete restructuring during 2013.
In February, Kodak announced plans to phase out its digital camera, pocket camera and digital picture frame business. The company also received approval to end a deal for naming rights to the Hollywood theater where the annual Academy Awards ceremony is held. Kodak then announced plans to sell its online photo business to rival Shutterfly Inc.
In September, Kodak said it had achieved the downsizing of its global workforce by more than 2,700 positions, with plans for further reductions of at least 1,200 employees. In November, Kodak accepted an $830 million financing offer from a group of bondholders. The deal was contingent on the sale of Kodak’s digital imaging patent portfolio for at least $500 million.
On Dec. 19, the company agreed to sell the patents for $525 million to a consortium organized by Intellectual Ventures Management LLC and RPX Corp. Kodak said the deal, which is subject to the approval of the Bankruptcy Court and other conditions, would put the company on track to emerge from bankruptcy in the first half of 2013.
While Kodak dominated local headlines, the biggest news story on a national scale was the 2012 presidential election. The election was the most searched news topic on Yahoo Inc.’s search engine and the third most searched topic on Google, behind Whitney Houston and Hurricane Sandy.
Local politics centered on the race between Slaughter and Brooks, a contest that was not as close as some might have expected. Slaughter won 57 percent of the vote and Brooks got 43 percent.
"The voters of Monroe County voted for additional legislative gridlock and unsustainable federal debt levels," commented Michael Lebowitz, a Pittsford-based real estate broker, who took part in the RBJ poll. "Maggie Brooks offered a moderate position which would (have) led to the reduction of our national debt and reductions in the size of spending of federal government.
"Instead, the voters supported two more years of out-of-control federal spending and burdening our children’s future with the historically high national debt. We can only hope that Maggie will give us the opportunity to vote for her in 2014."
Following closely behind the story of Slaughter’s re-election was the agreement of Laurence Glazer and Robert Morgan to redevelop Midtown Tower.
Rochester Mayor Thomas Richards announced in December that Glazer, CEO of Buckingham Properties LLC, would partner with Morgan Management LLC on a tower development that would feature 160 to 182 apartments along with commercial space on three to five floors at the southern end of the Midtown site.
The Glazer-Morgan partnership was ranked as the second most important story by the RBJ’s editorial team.
The news of the tower project was a positive story for the area, something readers such as Peter Caines would like to see more of.
"Unfortunately, most of the news is not of the positive type for our area," he commented. "We need new leadership that focuses Upstate New York on economic growth and job creation, which will only come with a more business-friendly environment and reduction in regulation and taxation. Otherwise, five to 10 years from now, it will be just more of the same. Merry Christmas and try to stay optimistic."
Ranking fourth on the readers’ list was American Breweries Holdings LLC, the parent of Genesee Brewing Co., agreeing to be sold to Cerveceria Costa Rica S.A. Rounding out the top five was the plan of Pepsi Co. Inc. and German diary company Theo Muller Gmbh for a $206 million Muller Quaker Dairy yogurt plant in Batavia.
The RBJ reader and staff polls were conducted Dec. 17 and 18; nearly 950 readers took part.
Here are some additional comments from readers:
Our governors past and present have been so tax-happy that it is destroying New York. I know a lot of people leaving New York. Just gas alone is so high that half our job force cannot afford to get to work. Half this blame goes to unions that are shutting down plants. Open your eyes and wake up. We too cannot afford New York; we will be leaving soon.
University of Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology and all the other colleges and universities in our region continued to be a powerful, robust economic engine driving our economy and quality of life.
—Betsy Glavin, Litron Laboratories
Regarding the top new stories, my vote is for the stories I wish I could have read but are missing: investigative reporting on the profits and salaries of Excellus and MVP personnel; double-digit increases in health insurance; the relationship of pharmaceutical rebates on formulary inclusion and position; the tax impact on this community from large employer not-for-profit companies compared with the tax contribution of for-profit companies; and a thorough accounting of program outcomes from tax dollars, e.g. welfare, child protection, DPW, etc.
Extremely difficult to choose; all are significant happenings in our area. However, anything affecting education and jobs is the most significant with long-term ramifications.
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield
If this is supposed to be about business stories, why are political stories included on the list?
—Marcus Klausen, Chili
12/28/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.