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Photography pioneer Kodak files for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection

Unable to maintain a steady supply of money from its digital imaging patents, storied photography pioneer Eastman Kodak announced late Wednesday that it is filing for chapter 11 business reorganization and bankruptcy protection.

Kodak said in a press release (via All Things D) that it has submitted its petition with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. Citigroup has agreed to loan the ailing company $950 million to help it shore up capital ahead of the proceedings, though the debtor-in-possession credit facility is subject to court approval.

The 120-year-old photography company said that it "believes that it has sufficient liquidity to operate its business during chapter 11, and to continue the flow of goods and services to its customers in the ordinary course." Employee wages and benefits will still be paid and "customer programs" will continue, according to the release.

Dominic DiNapooli, Vice Chairman of FTI Consulting, has been appointed Chief Restructuring Officer to see Kodak through the reorganization. The company expects to complete its U.S.-based restructuring during 2013. Subsidiaries outside of the U.S. are not subject to proceedings, the release revealed.

“Kodak is taking a significant step toward enabling our enterprise to complete its transformation,” said CEO Antonio Perez. “At the same time as we have created our digital business, we have also already effectively exited certain traditional operations, closing 13 manufacturing plants and 130 processing labs, and reducing our workforce by 47,000 since 2003. Now we must complete the transformation by further addressing our cost structure and effectively monetizing non-core IP assets. We look forward to working with our stakeholders to emerge a lean, world-class, digital imaging and materials science company.”

Perez added that the decision to pursue chapter 11 was a unanimous decision from the company's board of directors and senior management team. According to him, they believe it is a "necessary step and the right thing to do for the future of Kodak."

“Chapter 11 gives us the best opportunities to maximize the value in two critical parts of our technology portfolio: our digital capture patents, which are essential for a wide range of mobile and other consumer electronic devices that capture digital images and have generated over $3 billion of licensing revenues since 2003; and our breakthrough printing and deposition technologies, which give Kodak a competitive advantage in our growing digital businesses,” he continued.

As its bread-and-butter film business disintegrated in recent years, Kodak proved unable to successfully make the leap into the digital era. The company burned through a significant portion of its cash reserves in 2011. Early this month, reports suggested that Kodak was readying a bankruptcy filing after a last-ditch effort to sell off some of its patents fell through. Those patents are expected to now be sold off on auction while Kodak is under bankruptcy protection.

Perez, who headed up HP's printer group before switching to Kodak, had desperately tried to move Kodak into the printing business, but the company failed to gain much traction in the industry.

Kodak then turned to patent licensing to generate income. It succeeded in wringing close to $1 billion dollars from Samsung and LG over an image preview patent and then set its sights on Apple by filing a lawsuit against the iPhone maker with the International Trade Commission. Perez had said that "a lot of money, big money" was at stake in its case against Apple.

Apple, however, put up a fight, winning a preliminary victory early last year. Last December, the ITC announced that it had pushed back the date for a final decision on the case to September 2012. The delay came as a significant blow to Kodak, as some pundits predicted that it might not last until then.

Faced with the prospect of losing against Apple, Kodak then looked to sell off its collection of digital imaging patents in hopes of earning a lump sum of cash instead of royalty payments, but it was unable to close a deal.

Kodak did, however, get off a parting shot at Samsung on Wednesday when it sued the Korean electronics maker just hours before declaring bankruptcy.