End of an era? Olympus is selling off its imaging division to Japan Industrial Partners


posted Wednesday, June 24, 2020 at 7:32 AM EDT

Update, 9:06am ET: See below for a statement from Akihiko Murata, President, Olympus America Inc., Consumer Products Group 


Well, it happened. Olympus just announced their intent to sell off its entire imaging business. In a news release published this morning, Olympus Corporation CEO Yasuo Takeuchi stated that the Japanese optical company had signed a memorandum of understanding between it and Japan Industrial Partners (JIP), with plans to form a separate, new company to take the helm of Olympus' cameras, lenses and other photography products. JIP has a history of similar business transactions, as it was the company to take over the VAIO computer brand from Sony back in 2014.

There were rumors floating around earlier this year that Olympus was indeed looking to sell its imaging business, which, as this morning's announcement stated, has recorded operating losses for three consecutive fiscal years. However, statements to the press earlier this year downplayed or denied these claims. Back in March, IR founder Dave Etchells asked Masanori Sako, Olympus' Senior Manager of Global Marketing Strategy for Olympus Imaging Division, if the company had plans to sells its imaging business.

"We can clearly say that we have no plans to sell our business, despite the rumors," Sako stated. "Our official statement is that we don't have any such plan at this time."

"At this time." Alas, times appear to have changed.


Olympus, and the entire camera industry as a whole, has been in decline for years now in some form or fashion, with overall cameras sale declining against the rise of smartphones for over five years or so. And while the mirrorless camera segment had been quite successful on its own in recent years, it's not immune to the overall decline in sales across the board for interchangeable lens cameras.

But, this surprise announcement doesn't appear to be all doom and gloom. Your current Olympus cameras aren't suddenly going to disappear or stop working, and according to today's news release, the new company formed by Olympus' ownership transfer to JIP will, in theory at least, continue to make and develop new "Olympus" or OM-D and Zuiko camera products.

"NewCo will succeed and maintain the research and development functions and manufacturing functions globally as reformed under the contemplated structuring reforms to continue to offer high-quality, highly reliable products; and also continue to provide supports to the imaging solution products that have been distributed by Olympus."


So while Olympus fans around the globe are likely in shock by today's announcement, hopefully, we will see new OM-D, Zuiko and other "Olympus" camera products in the future. According to the memo, Olympus and JIP are still in the process of formalizing the details of the sale and formation of the new company. The two parties plan to sign the finalized agreement in September of this year, with the aim of having the full transaction completed by December 2020.

UPDATE: Statement from Akihiko Murata, President, Olympus America Inc., Consumer Products Group

As you are aware, the Imaging industry has experienced marked declines for several consecutive years. The market is contracting as the smartphone industry grows, and competition has been steadily increasing in the mirrorless interchangeable lens camera segment.

Due to these long term trends as well as recent market contractions due to COVID-19, the Olympus Imaging Business Unit has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Japan Industrial Partners, Inc. (JIP). According to the MOU, both companies are entering into further discussions about the potential transfer of Olympus’ long-standing Imaging business to JIP by the end of 2020.

During these discussions, Olympus Imaging will operate business as usual and will continue to deliver innovations to our customers, launching new products as planned. Olympus and JIP are committed to providing our stakeholders full transparency about our intentions as plans solidify.

Click here to read the full announcement.

(via The Verge)