Corporate Chemistry: When Large Chemical Companies Acquire Publishing Systems Vendors

Article excerpt

Most sources contacted by E&P about the fate of Du Pont Camex products said that the real question is how Du Pont's actions fit into the larger picture of its direction in serving the publishing industry -- especially in view of the fact that it will likely retain Whirlwind 1000.

That product line is the centerpiece of the ongoing editorial and advertising system changeover at the Houston Chronicle. It also was recently sold to Genoa's II Secolo XIX (E&P, Aug. 8), and a Du Pont executive expected to report other contracts shortly.

The same question, however, has been asked often about the intentions of other large chemical companies that have acquired publishing systems vendors. After Germany's Bayer merged Compugraphic into Agfa under its Miles subsidiary in the U.S., only the color-imaging and output systems survived.

"They don't ignore the text," said former Agfa executive Harry Dahl, now executive vice president at Information International Inc. He said Agfa systems do a fine job handling text, but that color is emphasized in part because the market no longer sees the "sex appeal" in text that it sees in color.

Dahl stressed that Agfa did not abandon text. "Compugraphic's niche went away," he said, when customers "went over to Macintoshes exclusively.

"So that left Agfa with imagesetters and color systems... and the film side, which they had before."

This all came about, Dahl recalled, because, whereas under Kodak (where he had also spent several years prior to joining Agfa), Atex began moving from proprietary systems to PCs and was aimed more toward newspapers and other publishers, Compugraphic held onto proprietary systems a little longer for its principal market-commercial typesetting. And it was that market that "went away through no fault of Agra's."

In other respects, added Dahl, Kodak and Bayer were very similar. They had roughly the same amount of business in the early 1980s (he put it at about $26 billion) and roughly the same number of employees. He said also that Agra's share of the overall graphic arts business was about the same as Kodak's.

Now, however, Kodak also seeks to sell off subsidiary enterprises not considered core businesses -- among them Atex Inc., in spite of last year's assurances by Atex and Kodak managers that Atex was not for sale.

Those assurances rested, in part, on the fact that Atex products included color imaging, which represents a continuing business interest for Kodak. But the Sun- and Mac-based Colorflow products are based on Kodak Prophecy technology, and Kodak recently transferred the Renaissance product from Atex to another division. Renaissance technology is at the heart of Atex's Capriccio design and serial pagination solution, which Atex still markets to newspapers. …