Bussiness

Kodak’s top exec sees $200 million windfall on stock frenzy

The net worth of Kodak’s top executive has skyrocketed on the company’s transformation from an ailing camera maker to cutting-edge pharmaceutical start-up — thanks in part to some timely share purchases.

James Continenza, Kodak’s executive chairman and de facto CEO, was sitting pretty as the company’s largest individual shareholder — with 650,000 shares  — when it emerged on Tuesday that Kodak would be launching a new pharmaceutical arm with help from the Trump administration.

News of the $765 million loan — the first of its kind to reduce the US’s reliance on foreign manufacturers — sent Wall Street into a tizzy. The stock tripled in price on Tuesday before closing up Wednesday another 317 percent, or $25.15 a share, to $33.20. This week alone, the stock is up more than 1,700 percent.

For Continenza, who only took over as de facto CEO last year, the buying frenzy has resulted in a two-day profit of more than $200 million. As of Monday, Continenza’s 650,000 Kodak shares were worth just $1.3 million —  not counting the millions in vested stock options he holds in the company. By Wednesday afternoon, his holdings were worth roughly $215.8 million.

Continenza purchased almost 100,000 of his Kodak shares this year, including 46,737 shares on June 23rd for just at $2.22. His profit on the June purchase alone stands at almost $1.6 million.

Legal experts warn that his stock purchases could raise eyebrows given that Kodak’s price pop is both eye-popping and based on a negotiated deal with the government.

“If these shares were purchased on the open market based on private information, that would be a problem,” said Charles Elson, a corporate governance expert from the University of Delaware.

“But if they are scheduled quarterly purchases, that is well within the rules of the SEC.” The Securities and Exchange Commission allows public company insiders to buy and sell stock at a predetermined time and price to prevent insider trading.

A Kodak spokesman told The Post in a statement that Continenza’s June purchase was “a continuation of ongoing, regular investments in Kodak and are in full compliance with regulatory guidelines for investment activity.”

Continenza, a former telecom executive, is also sitting on a potential gold mine in the form of roughly 2.5 million stock options in Kodak that vest at prices between $3.03 and $12 a share in 2026.

On Wednesday, he told CNBC that the initial high-level talks with the government started two months ago and that insiders had known “for over a week” that the loan had been approved before it was announced.

When asked about unusual trading in Kodak stock that kicked off Monday, a day before the announcement, he said he didn’t know. “I mean obviously this has been a pretty tight kept secret even until the last day.”

The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday attributed Kodak’s 25 percent gain on Monday on heavy volume to websites of the ABC and CBS affiliates in Rochester reporting on news of the government loan ahead of embargo. Both stories were removed after Kodak balked, but it had already been collected by internet data scrappers like Meltwater, a global media intelligence company.

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