UPDATE 02 15 Feb 2019: Management buy out has succeeded. New Tetenal operations to officially begin April 1st 2019 – jump to update
UPDATE 01 30 Jan 2019: Signs of a management buyout give hope for the future of Tetenal Europe GmbH – jump to update
29 Jan 2018: Initial announcement
Word is coming in that attempts to restructure Tetenal Europe GmbH and its subsidiaries, which started in October 2018, have failed. As reported by the online publication “imaging + foto-contact“, employees based at the company’s headquarters in Norderstedt, Germany were informed today that the company will go into administration and is expected to close doors on April 1 2019, after current production runs have been completed.
Self-administered insolvency protection
Tetenal’s application for restructuring under insolvency protection was first reported in early October 2018 by Digital Imaging (cached, German), who quoted the then Tetenal Europe GmbH Managing Director Daniel Middendorf as saying:
“For years, Tetenal has been under great pressure to adapt due to radical changes in our markets. This pressure from outside now requires us to review and adapt our entire structures. The reorganization path that has now been taken will put the company on a new footing and lead us to sustainable profitability.”
The business had been under a “self-administration” insolvency protection for nearly four months – essentially permitting the business to continue its activities while Middendorf attempted an independent restructuring of the business. Under the eye of a provisional administrator, a consulting team was brought in from Buchalik Brömmekamp to assist, although they were later replaced by Grantiro.
Sadly, the search for investors who would have allowed the business to continue operating was not successful. In spite of a number of interested parties coming forward during negotiations, no binding commitment was received and the District Court of Kiel ordered provisional insolvency administration on January 10th 2019.
Although both Tetenal Europe GmbH and its German subsidiary Tetenal Imaging Service GmbH are now subject to formal insolvency proceedings, the status of Tetenal Europe’s of foreign subsidiaries in Poland, France and the UK is unknown.
Tetenal history and impact
Tetenal’s story began in 1847 when Berlin entrepreneur Theodor Teichgräber incorporated photographic chemicals for the development of collodion plates into the pharmaceutical range of his wholesale pharmacy. The trademark “Tetenal” was first registered in 1910 and the company diversified into both X-ray chemistry and print.
The company has been responsible for a number of innovations within the photochemistry industry, it’s 1987 “E6 3-bath” developer, and strides in creating ecologically-responsible products and programmes being just two examples.
The company supplies Kodak Express Digital Solutions partners and is responsible for the distribution of Kodak chemistry in Europe, Africa and the Middle East – alongside the supply of traditional process analogue photography chemistry for a number of other companies.
What mid to long term impact this has on the supply side of photographic chemistry remains to be seen. Tetenal is a company of huge importance to both to photographers developing film in their homes and to the already struggling film lab industry who in 2018 also saw the discontinuation of black and white Negstar developer from Fujifilm Japan.
30 Jan 2018: Management buyout announcement
The last few days have brought bad news for the analog photography community. Tetenal Europe GmbH, which has been in insolvency proceedings since September 2018, will no longer exist in its present form as of Spring 2019. Customers have been asked to place their last orders.
“Without Tetenal, an entire era of classical photography will come to an end.” This is has been the general theme of comments and conversation in both the around the photo industry and analogue photography communities. Historically, Tetenal was one of the inventors of modern photochemistry and, in the over 170 years since it came into being, the company has developed an unparalleled treasury of chemical formulas for use in the photo industry.
“Although amateur photographers may not know the name, Tetenal chemicals are in many, if not most, of the photo products they use, including many big brand names. Without Tetenal, we would lose a large number of the international photo products on the market,” commented Marwan El-Mozayen, well-known analog photography expert and Editor-in-Chief of PhotoKlassik International Magazine.
The lights are still on at Tetenal Europe.
It seems that it’s now time for Tetenal employees to take a leaf from the ILFORD Photo / Harman Technology book; an initiative spearheaded by Stefania Grimme (Production), Carsten Gehring and Norbert Köster-Beestermöller (Distribution), Mike Fawcett (Branding), Dr. Burkhardt Müller (Research and Development) and approximately 40 employees are ready to forge a new path for Tetenal Europe.
The new team is expected to provide an offer for a management buy out to the insolvency administrators in the next few days.
The European offshoots of Tetenal in Great Britain, Poland, and France are not directly affected by the parent company’s insolvency. “We are continuing normal operations and would be happy to have a new, powerful Tetenal in Germany,” said Mike Fawcett, the head of the division in Great Britain in support of the initiative of his colleagues in Germany.
“The insolvency administration is happy about every job that can be saved, and we wish them the best of luck,” says Dr. Sven-Holger Undritz, the court-appointed insolvency administrator from the firm of White & Case. “If it is indeed possible to proceed with their plan, it would be a good thing for everyone, including the creditors.”
As early as December 2018, a team of employees started thinking about possible ways forward into a successful future for Tetenal. They were supported by experts from many different branches of the industry, all of whom volunteered their services to help serve the analog photography community and industry. This process was supported by the GRANTIRO Initiative from Vienna, who were invited by the insolvency administrator to help the employees with their strategic planning.
The insolvency administration is happy about every job that can be saved
The New Tetenal team will be supported by the Swiss bank Rasenberger Toschek, which will help them negotiate with banks and investors. At this time, hundreds of new products are being freshly evaluated and possible production programs are being discussed with customers. You can find the website of “New Tetenal” over at new-tetenal.de, although for the moment it’s only available in German.
“We are getting calls from all over the world,” say Carsten Gehring and Norbert Köster-Beestermöller from the distribution team at Tetenal, “not only to place last-minute orders but also with concrete offers of help so that the ‘last’ order can also be the first order with the new team.”
The lights are still on at Tetenal Europe. The insolvency proceeding provides for production through February and March; by April the employee take-over must have taken place for the new employee start-up company to be successful.