The European Endeavour: Agfa turns 50 today (Agfa-Gevaert that is)
At the end of the 50's there were growing markets, but the same time growing demand on technological finesse. Especially with a dominating manufacturer around as Kodak.
For the west-german New-Agfa that caused the buying up of smaller manufacturers competing with overseas company doing the same in Germany. And striving for a final solution for their legal issues with their "mother", the east-german Old-Agfa. Which themselves were interested in such settlement too.
But this would not be enough. So the idea came up again to form an alliance with their major european competitor: the belgian Gevaert.
Both companies were of about equal size, both in a strong process of growth. The same time they differed in the markets they meanwhile got their stronghold: Agfa was strongest with consumers, Gevaert with non consumer markets.
In secrecy forms of collaboration were devised which ended in the merger of the two in 1964. Due to the legal situation then in Europe the founding of two new companies on shares was planned: Agfa-Gevaert AG and Gevaert-Agfa NV. Two entities in which Agfa and Gevaert put their plants whereas the shares of each entity were split 50/50.
The general company name became Agfa-Gevaert which also became part of the new logo.
A quite unique merger back then. A uniform company to the outside world, but actually two independant ones legally. The "fusion" was set in practice, by persons. The same persons controlling both companies. A difficult task with different national laws on executive boards, controlling boards, employees' participation in managemen. And the issue of language and culture, with hardly anyone in Germany speaking Flemish. Also the war was still on ones minds.
Together a much stronger No. 2 in the western world emerged, gaining 25% of the production of Kodak.
The same time the use of the brand name Gevaert was successively reduced until only Agfa was used in logos etc. Even at their flemish headquarters by now the name Gevaert is scarce.
This true marriage existed until 1981. In 1979/80 the silver-crisis endangered the photochemical industries. A private speculator had bought up silver stocks to an extend that prices were exploding. Up to an extant that the annual cost of silver would be the same as Agfa-Gevaert's annual revenues. Silver that had to be financed. A situation that endangered the existance of Agfa-Gevaert, would not fresh money be brought in.
At this situation the different family situations of the two marriage partners became important: Gevaert had put all their assets into Agfa-Gevaert. As Agfa did too. But Agfa was owned by the chemical concern Bayer. Bayer had the financial flexibility Gevaert was lacking. Thus Bayer dit an in-time investment to keep Agfa-Gevaert afloat. This new financial disbalance between the two partners at Agfa-Gevaert finally led to Bayer "paying-out" Gevaert, with Bayer shares.
Gevaert then turned into a financial holding company linked to the photo-world only loosely via their Bayer shares.
Agfa-Gevaert now was a german held company. But at the end of the 90's Bayer too lost interest in the photo-world in a beginning trend of the chemical industries to re-arrange themselves. So they started selling Agfa-Gevaert shares. Until in 2001 Agfa-Gevaert became a flemish company completely on public shares.
In 2004 Agfa-Gevaert sold their consumer branch including the plants related to that market (all in Germany) to a start-up that mysteriously went bancrupt within short time.
So, in a way, today one is back there where all started at Gevaert in 1964. But a standing most probably would not have been achieved, if one even had survived, would not have been that merger.
Last edited by AgX; 07-01-2014 at 09:18 AM. Click to view previous post history.
I was reluctant to post this at all, as I experience a growing reluctance to historic matters of this kind here at Apug.
Last edited by AgX; 07-01-2014 at 04:00 AM. Click to view previous post history.
What a post :o!
No very interesting.
I just missed out on Kodachrome I (10ASA).
My uncle was using it on cine.
Used HP3 for a long time.
History is important :
I have huge admiration for AGFA, the photo manufacturing world is a small one, and we have always had close relations. AGFA Photo made great products, had great technology, the Leuverkusen machine was a triumph, great people and its going away was very sad. Although as you probably know some of the AGFA finishing machines live on here at HARMAN.
I still own and treasure my father's AGFA Camera that he owned and used for 30 years.
You may or may not know that the then owner of ILFORD in 2004 made an offer to buy AGFA Photo
( for 1 Euro ) take on the laibilities and put ILFORD and AGFA together, many people here today including most of the current Board worked on that deal.
Then a 'management buy out' that gave Gaveart much more came along and the rest, very sadly, is history.
Simon. ILFORD photo / HARMAN technology Limited :
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If memory serves correctly that management buyout virtually disappeared and the Agfa films e.g. APX, RSX etc. went off the market rather fast.
Originally Posted by Simon R Galley
That's a really interesting story AgX! Thanks heaps for taking the time to write it here!
Thank you all.
By purpose I did not comment on the Kodak/Agfa relation of today, 50 years later. There is enough bashing going on at other threads.
To me that endeavour of merging two companies on a level of equality, bridging a border, a border actually on many fields, is the intriguing aspect. It was the only experiment of that kind that was successfull.
For most people, being a consumer of photo products, only the Agfa-Leverkusen part was and is visible. Leading to a quite distorted view on Agfa-Gevaert.
Originally Posted by Tom Kershaw
The history of this shortlived (production) company still has to be written.
Calling that interlude mysterious is the most diplomatic way, I can think of.
Whatever was behind that, it practically ended that belgo-german endeavour. As even after the loss of any german control the major plants were up to then still devided between the two countries (nonwithstanding the many plants in other countries).
Now there only is one Agfa plant still in Germany.
Last edited by AgX; 07-01-2014 at 07:11 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Thanks for posting. I am always interested in the history of famous (and not so famous) companies. I don't know who makes the Agfa film today, but I find the Agfa Vista pretty nice.