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Polaroid Corporation is an international consumer electronics and eyewear company, originally founded in 1937 by Edwin H. Land. It is most famous for its instant film cameras, which reached the market in 1948, and continued to be the company's flagship product line until the February 2008 decision to cease all production in favor of digital photography products. The company's original dominant market was in polarized sunglasses, an outgrowth of Land's self-guided research in polarization after leaving Harvard University after his freshman year—he later returned to Harvard to continue his research.
After Polaroid defeated Kodak in a patent battle, Kodak left the instant camera business on January 9, 1986.
Polaroid developed an instant movie system, Polavision, based on the Dufaycolor process. The product arrived on the market when videotape based systems were rapidly gaining popularity. As a result, Polavision was unsuccessful and most of the manufactured product was sold off as a job lot at immense cost to the company. Its underlying technology was later improved for use in the Polachrome instant slide film system.
The company also was one of the early manufacturers of digital cameras, with the PDC-2000 in 1996; however, they failed to capture a large market share in that segment.
On October 11, 2001, Polaroid Corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Almost all the company's assets (including the "Polaroid" name itself) were sold to a subsidiary of Bank One. They went on to form a new company, which also operates under the name "Polaroid Corporation". It stopped making Polaroid cameras in 2007 and stopped selling Polaroid film after 2009, to the consternation of many users.
The renamed "old" Polaroid now exists solely as an administrative shell. Its bankruptcy was widely believed to be the result of the failure of its senior management to anticipate the effect of digital cameras on its film business.
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.
On January 5, 2010, Polaroid partnered with Lady Gaga, appointing her as Creative Director for the company. A press release stated that she would be the "new face" of Polaroid.
Since March 2010, instant film materials for Vintage Polaroid cameras have again become available on the market, developed and manufactured by Impossible at the former Polaroid production plant in Enschede, The Netherlands.
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 operates using the name of its bankrupt predecessor, Polaroid Corporation.
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 remains in existence under Chapter 11 protection, but conducts no commercial business and has no employees.
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.
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. The "new" Polaroid Corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on December 18, 2008.
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.
Auction for Polaroid Corp's Assets
On April 2, 2009, Patriarch Partners LLC won an auction for Polaroid Corporation's assets including the company's name, intellectual property, and photography collection. Patriarch' $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.
"Polaroid on April 16 won US Bankruptcy Court approval to be sold to a joint venture of Hilco Consumer Capital LP of Toronto and Gordon Brothers Brands LLC of Boston."
Hilco Consumer Capital and Gordon Brother 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.
Corporate sponsorship of motorsports
In the 1990s, Polaroid was involved in the 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 currently sponsors 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 which won the 94th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday May 30, 2010.
The Polaroid name has also been associated with the NOPI drift series. Polaroid was the principal sponsor of the 350Z driven by Nick Bollea, who placed third in Pittsburgh and tenth in Denver at NOPI events in the 2007 season. Polaroid chose not to renew their sponsorship of Bollea for the 2008 season. No official reason has been given, but this decision was made in the wake of a serious accident and allegations of illegal street racing by Bollea.
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.
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. Colour films were initially released in 2010 for SX-70 type cameras, followed in 2011 with the release of much improved colour 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 has long since passed with no new information on this new camera.
In summer 2008 Polaroid released the PoGo, an instant photo printer producing 2 by 3 inches (51 × 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. In 2009 the CZA-05300B PoGo, a 5 megapixel digital camera integrated with a Zink printer, was released.