Olympus is getting out of its 84-year-old camera business.
The Japanese imaging company, which makes most of its money from medical equipment, announced Wednesday it will sell its camera business to Japan Industrial Partners – the company that acquired VAIO from Sony in 2014.
The sale marks an end to of Olympus’ consumer camera business that began 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 — alongside competitors such as Kodak and Fujifilm — to usher in the digital camera revolution with its signature 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 last three years – even after attempts at restructuring.
Olympus has long been rumored to be interested in selling off its camera business, which accounts for only a small portion of the company’s overall holdings. Yet CEO Yasuo Takeuchi had denied reports of selling the camera business as recently as November 2019.
The deal with JIP is expected to close in September. Financial details of the transaction have not yet been announced.
Citing JIP’s “strong track records in supporting strategic carve-outs,” the memorandum maintains the new owners will continue to develop Olympus’ cameras existing technologies for new products. The company didn’t say whether it would keep 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 covert payments to the Yakuza organized crime syndicates.