Olympus Corporation’s chief executive Yasuo Takeuchi has revealed that the company chose to sell off its camera business to Japan Industrial Partners two years ago in a bid to get any value for it before it became obsolete.
Takeuchi spoke with Fortune regarding the shift to a medical focus for Olympus and explains that the brand chose to shed both its microscope and camera businesses in order to make the company more agile. His goal was to focus the company’s efforts and expand its international influence in addition to shedding the weight of lesser performing sectors, such as the camera division which had for years been unprofitable.
Selling those two divisions, which had been mainstays in the brand’s portfolio for decades, has allowed Olympus to triple the value of its share price as it focuses its attention on the medical sector.
In the interview, Takeuchi explains that as Olympus’s endoscopy business grew, it needed to focus on that and develop it. It realized this about the same time its camera business started to decline. He says that Olympus needed to offload the camera division as quickly as possible before it was no longer valuable.
“We had to move before it became too late and those businesses became obsolete,” he says.
Takeuchi says that even though cameras were a huge part of Olympus’s brand identity, it was a requirement for the business to stay afloat. At the same time, he says that the cameras still had a right to exist and as such needed to find the right home.
“They have a right to survive business-wise and to have the right owner. It was unfortunate for them to have Olympus as their owner, and they can now have another future,” Takeuchi says.
It isn’t clear what part of Olympus’s camera division Takeuchi believed was at risk of becoming obsolete, especially considering that OM-Digital, the new name of the Olympus camera technology under Japan Industrial Partners, released a new camera earlier this year: the OM-1. That camera was quite impressive and PetaPixel’s Matt Williams went so far as to say it is the best Micro Four Thirds camera ever made. It is also the last camera that will bear the Olympus branding.
Whatever the case, shedding the camera division has clearly paid off for Olympus.