Olympus is going out of the camera business

The Japanese imaging company, which makes most of its money from medical equipment, announced Wednesday that it will sell its camera business to Japan Industrial Partners, the company that acquired VAIO from Sony in 2014.
The sale marks the end of Olympus’ consumer camera business that started in 1936, when it introduced the Zuiko-branded camera. It sold its first lightweight SLR camera under the “OM” brand in 1972 and its Infinity Stylus compact point-and-shoot camera in 1991.

Olympus launched its first digital camera in 1996, helping, along with competitors like Kodak and Fujifilm, usher in the digital camera revolution with its exclusive Micro Four Thirds interchangeable lens system.

But smartphones devastated the digital camera business, and Olympus’ consumer camera division recorded operating losses in each of the past three years, even after restructuring attempts.

Olympus has long been rumored to be interested in selling its camera business, which represents only a small part of the company’s overall holdings. However, CEO Yasuo Takeuchi had denied reports of selling the camera business in November 2019.

The JIP deal is expected to close in September. The financial details of the transaction have yet to be announced.

Citing JIP’s “strong track record in supporting strategic divisions,” the memo states that the new owners will continue to develop existing Olympus camera technologies for new products. The company did not say whether it would maintain the Olympus brand.

Olympus has been rocked by a series of controversies, including a massive corporate corruption scandal in 2011 that revealed more than $ 1.5 billion in investment losses and alleged undercover payments to Yakuza organized crime syndicates.