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Is 2020 is the year of companies breaking up with their nostalgia-laden businesses?



Goodbye, nostalgia-laden businesses.

In May, General Electric sold its iconic lightbulb business—a line that traced back to Thomas Edison—as the company focused on non-consumer segments such as power turbines and aircraft engines.

It seems 2020 will also be known as a year of companies breaking up with their historically core units.

Olympus, the Japanese company once known to lead the photography industry, said Wednesday that it plans to exit its 84-year-old camera business. The company plans to sell the segment that has been hit hard by the rise of smartphones to Japan Industrial Partners, a private equity firm best known for acquiring Sony’s Vaio computer line in 2014, my colleague Robert Hackett reports. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

The divestiture was long in the making. The introduction of the Apple iPhone in 2007, with its built-in and high-quality lenses, made a brutal new competitor for camera makers, with digital camera sales down 87% since 2010. If the smartphone was the camera industry’s code red, then the coronavirus was the nail in the coffin for Olympus’ photography business: On June 17, the company said that the pandemic put revenues at a “downward trend.”

And here comes the common refrain of a company burned by finicky laypeople: Like General Electric, if a deal goes through, Olympus will shift away from consumers. But its focus is not on turbines or engines: Instead, Olympus is focusing on businesses such as surgical equipment and medical devices like endoscopes. Demand for medical lines, Olympus says in a press release, “will remain unchanged against the global backdrop of aging societies and the growth of emerging countries. Olympus sees a great chance to accelerate transformation to a truly global medtech company for sustainable growth.” 

No doubt others will make such a pivot in the coronavirus era. After all, isn’t that what seems to be happening at AR/VR company Magic Leap? Read more.

A gym, yes a physical one, goes public:  F45 Trainings, a gym chain with over 1,900 franchises backed by actor Mark Wahlberg, went public by merging with Crescent Acquisition Corp., a special-purpose acquisition company. The transaction, a press release says, values the company at $845 million and will “accelerate F45’s continued global expansion.” 

Which is great and all—I sure miss my gym—but this very much seems to be a waiting game and a gamble on timing. Much of the U.S. and the world is reopening slowly, though the threat of a second wave of coronavirus looms large. Expansion feles like a tall order at the moment. What the merger means is that F45 now has as much as $300 million in its cash coffers to survive.

Lucinda Shen
Twitter: @shenlucinda

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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