A group of investors led by One Equity Partners, an investment company controlled by Bank One, the 6th largest US bank, has offered to take over Polaroid Corp., which went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy last October. Others may bid with the US bankruptcy court for the business, and the closing of the transaction is expected for the 3rd or 4th quarter of this year.
One Equity Partners' bid involves most of Polaroid's US assets and its foreign subsidiaries including Polaroid Eyewear, which is profitable. With a plant in the USA and a finishing factory in Scotland, Polaroid Eyewear represents the origins of the group, born in 1937 to supply the US Army with polarized sunglasses. Polaroid Eyewear claims to hold more than half of the growing world market for polarized sun lenses, estimated at 25-30 million pairs or more than 10 percent of the total sunglass market of 250 million pairs, with a stronger share in Europe than in the USA.
Polaroid Eyewear is based in Switzerland. Benjamin Kohler, who joined the company 11 years ago and began running its European operations 3 years ago, was recently promoted as global general manager of Polaroid Eyewear. He replaced Arthur Braunstein, who was based in the UK and was promoted last December as global marketing manager for Polaroid's photo division.
Polaroid Eyewear plans to reach full-scale production of its new polarized polycarbonate lenses in Scotland by the 3rd or 4th quarter of 2002, expanding the clientele. Using a proprietary press polishing process that ensures optical Class 1 European sunglass standards, Polaroid started commercial production with limited quantities in the 1st quarter. It has commitments from customers all over the world, with particularly strong demand in the USA. The main competitors in this category are Sola International, which uses a sack form manufacturing process, and BNL Eurolens, which uses injection molding.