Two cents on the whole Hasselblad-DJI thing

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In the last few days since Kevin Raber at LL published his editorial, I’ve received at least 100 emails asking ‘is it true?’ and ‘is this the end?’ Hopefully by now the internet hysteria has died down and most of us can take a collective deep breath and look at the situation with a bit more objectivity, it’ll become clear that the sky isn’t falling. Indeed, it’s quite likely to be the opposite. However, knowing how quick people are to accuse, react and generally come to (often wildly incorrect) conclusions without complete information, I have to state my position clearly upfront:

  1. Yes, I am a Hasselblad ambassador but am not involved at all in the operations, finances or strategic decisions of the company. I use the cameras, answer questions, and that’s really about it.
  2. This post was neither solicited nor compensated for by the company or any other party, and solely represents my own opinions.
  3. Whilst I am only a photographer now, I did work in M&A, private equity and at senior operational positions for the better part of 10 years beforehand. So I do know something about the issues at hand.
  4. I am of ethnic Chinese descent (why this is important will become clear later on).
  5. We’ll look at the situation with as much commercial objectivity as possible.

With that, let’s get on with the analysis.

The official word is that there has been no change in the identity of the major owners in Hasselblad: they remain Ventizz Capital and DJI. Even if* at some point in the last few months, DJI increased their stake from the initial position in 2015, it can only be interpreted as a positive move for two reasons: firstly, DJI itself is a successful company, but limited by the nature of their product** and market (consumer, i.e. price sensitive). Secondly, if you take a small stake in something that isn’t working, why would you subsequently take an even larger stake later on? That is nothing but sheer insanity. Clearly, therefore, the people making decisions at DJI know something that the rest of us public do not – and this gives them confidence that any investments will generate the desired returns, which in turn can only mean there’s something to sell.

*Even so, without official confirmation, we are simply speculating.

**Drones are becoming increasingly commoditised, which means lower margins and higher investments required for product differentiation – in the long run, this is a bad, high-capital and low-margin business.

If I had to guess, Hasselblad’s biggest challenge now is twofold: firstly, they have a competitive product lineup that is in demand (X1D, H6-100) but need to make significant investment in production to satisfy far greater than expected demand. The cameras are shipping, though demand remains strong and waiting times longer than anybody would like. I would imagine that the capital commitments are both high and far in advance of any revenue coming back in: you need to lock in the most expensive component (the sensor) months or years in advance, which in turn requires payment. However, you probably won’t see any cashflow in return until the product sells to the end consumer (by the time you factor in dealer credit terms etc.).

On top of this, even with a relatively long-lived product like a medium format camera, the life cycle may not be more than a few years – so the economics are even more challenging. There are huge cash outflows in the R&D and early production periods, and you don’t get anything back until the product ships – upon which you’ve only got a year or so to recover most of that cost whilst the demand is still hot. I think it’s pretty obvious where higher than expected demand is a good thing, but at the same time can cause some cashflow consternation and delay if you have to order 4x or 5x the number of sensors you initially planned for. The Kumamoto earthquake in 2015 affecting what is pretty much the main supplier of photographic sensors (Sony) has made things even more challenging: here’s a textbook example of why monopolies are a bad thing for all parties in the long run.

One thing I haven’t yet seen postulated is that the DJI investment was not necessarily a buyout: it may well have been an expansion with issue of new shares (Note: I don’t actually know if this is the case). This makes quite a bit of difference to the interpretation, because buying something over implies that the other party has decided there are better uses for their capital, as opposed to perhaps having to maintain portfolio diversification, or not having more to invest being a closed fund. This kind of corporate action is quite common when companies have to raise more capital for expansion.

I cannot speculate as to the motivations behind Kevin’s post, but I don’t think it’s as gloomy as he paints: the simple reality is that Asians (and specifically Chinese) do not invest in things we believe will be unprofitable; if anything, the opposite. (And it isn’t exactly in Phase One’s interests not to have competition, either.) Whilst this might seem like a flippantly racist comment, being of ethnic Chinese descent myself and living in the three-plus-culture melting pot that is Malaysia, I can state with some certainty that the Chinese are savvy businesspeople. I suspect it’s a historical thing: post-cultural revolution, the population in Mainland China is simply so large that if you’re not willing to go that extra step – you simply won’t be competitive. Outside it, migrants had to build new lives and fend for themselves in societies that might not have been that welcoming – if anything, Chinese are consummate opportunists. It’s also not the first time Hasselblad has been under Chinese ownership – Shriro became majority shareholder in 2003, and continues to be the regional distributor for China/HK and SE Asia.

From a photographer’s standpoint, the natural fear is that this opportunism is going is likely to result in a complete erasure of history at worst, and some astronomical mistakes* at worst. Whilst we Chinese are generally savvy businesspeople, I’ll be the first to admit that we aren’t exactly always the epitome of taste, either. I would be more concerned about this scenario if the earlier Sony rebadged-product hadn’t happened, meaning the temptation would be there to ‘sell the brand’ to the mass of unknowing nouveau riche consumers; however, history has proven this was perhaps not the best idea at a holistic level, and it is therefore unlikely to happen again. I come back to the same fundamental principle again: it isn’t going to happen if there isn’t money to be made. 

From a business standpoint, no company invests in another to lose money. Investment for technology sharing or simple return on capital happens all the time in other industries – I really don’t see why it’s such a big deal in photography; we don’t beat our breasts and pull out our hair when our washing-machine manufacturer moves production or gets bought over. More objectively, even if another cobranding exercise were to happen, and money was made that would be used to further develop the flagship H, X and CFV series products – or bring to fruition the V1D concept – then why not? Leica has long been doing the same with first Fuji and later Panasonic, which enabled them to pull back from the brink of bankruptcy in the early to mid 90s. In the long run, even if the rebranded products are a success – it would leave the company doing the rebranding as little more than a middleman, at the mercy of both supplier and market for product innovation and fickleness of taste/demand respectively. The only way to build a sustainable business would be to convert those ‘entry’ buyers to your higher end proprietary product: and for that you still need said halo product.

*Lunar, Stellar, etc.

Bottom line, or TL:DR version:

  1. An increase in investment amount by a party that likely knows what they’re doing and is already in the photographic industry is a good thing: it means there’s investor confidence, much as if the same were to happen in any other industry.
  2. A change of ownership does not mean a change of strategy (that would be silly, given it would also remove the attractiveness and relative predictability of the investment), but more likely doubling down.
  3. Chinese do not invest in anything that’s unlikely to be profitable.

And whilst history may repeat, objectively, if the outcome is the desired one (more capital for other things) – then it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all: a lot of similar noises were made about the Volvo-Geely deal; several years later, we’re now seeing the rather impressive results of that: if anything, Volvo is firmly back in the game and in touch with its roots than ever. MT

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Comments

  1. Peter Bowyer says:

    With no prior experience of M&A, private equity or finance beyond a bit of stock market investing, I’ve learned as much from this post as from any of your others. Thank you Ming! Any financial analysis blogs you can recommend, to keep learning after you return to writing about photography?

  2. David Clarence says:

    Dedicated Fuji user here, but after seeing the X1D I had my checkbook ready. If the increased DJI investment represents a ‘change’ of control’ then that’s a bit of a concern on my part. I would have waited for reviews on a production model, but now I’d wait longer to see if current HB management and their ‘vision’ survives. All the more difficult with Fuji now an possible option… Still I wish them luck. It looks like a beautiful product.

  3. As a commercial finance guru of sorts, another theory is that DJI was allowed to acquire additional shares and become majority shareholder after PE decided it would not put additional capital into HB. However, DJI’s move was not strategic (I am not sure I see any real product synergy other than access to less expensive DJI suppliers) but was to protect its minority interest in HB by offering a guarantee of HB core creditors (and perhaps some cash) in exchange for the larger stake. Perhaps the guaranty extended to a line of credit. Factoring would not be terribly advantageous as the accounts generated principally by consumers are going to be mostly by CC and as such turn is relatively quick. HB CEO has a strong Proof of Concept with the x1d (a Hail Mary perhaps), while it may have taken DJI several months to negotiate with existing creditors and banks to alleviate any restrictions on HB credit and cash flow, and with the PE firm to optimize its share %. This is a likely situation IMHO.

    The real question is what is the contribution margin of the x1d and how much free cash flow will be thrown off from these sales. HB’s balance sheet may be in tatters, putting additional pressure on DJI for cash.

    I would guess that HB’s existing products are not selling like hotcakes which means the x1d will either make or break the company for the foreseeable future. Given HB’s handicap, the survival question is what else can it produce to attract customers in this overly saturated market. This is unlikely a scenario where one product saves the day after say 2 years.

    I don’t see the PE getting any cash out of the deal until HB rights the ship, but who knows.

    • An interesting hypothesis, but I’m not sure I agree about DJI being ‘forced’ into buying more: given they’re only in for 15%, it would make more sense to exit rather than guarantee the majority as the minority…

  4. Maybe KR’s comments are meant to appeal to the Trump voter’s in the US of A ?

    Anyway, this post is a good discussion on photographic equipment and business realities. Thanks to Ming and the various commenters.

  5. “…the temptation would be there to ‘sell the brand’ to the mass of unknowing nouveau riche consumers; however, history has proven this was perhaps not the best idea at a holistic level, and it is therefore unlikely to happen again.”

    Although not exactly the same situation, I feel there is a bit of this in the smartphone co-branding we’ve seen with Leica-Huawei and maybe others. Hasselblad has done something along the same lines with their Moto mod add-on camera for the late 2016 Lenovo Moto Z. Don’t have any first hand experience with this product, but it seems there is a bit of this “sell the brand” attached to this effort. Not so sure this is where Hasselblad should be expending effort.

  6. thank you for your article,

  7. When I first heard about X1D last year, I wanted to buy some Hasselblad. Unfortunately it was not listed on the stock exchange, it was privately held. 😦

  8. I only heard about the Hasselblad-DJI thing because of this blog post.

    People get worked up over nothing.

    • Yes, they do – especially because in most cases, they aren’t even affected directly or indirectly by the possible outcome – since it’s all still speculation.

      I only heard about it because everybody was emailing me assuming I knew something…

  9. Martin Fritter says:

    I wish them the best of luck. “Enthusiast” pricing for MF is a way to leapfrog Canon/Nikon. And the legacy DSLR market isn’t doing very well.

    It seems that Hasselblad (and apparently Leica SL) have resolved the user interface crap that bedevils users of seemingly all other digital cameras. Fuji has committed to MF as we know. What is the market like the PRC for high-end camera gear – e.g., what percent of Otus sales?

    (I shot a friend’s SL and must say, it was lovely.)

    • UI: They started again, and the end result is the better for it. No baggage or excuses to make to legacy users of that system – because there weren’t any. But will there be issues progressing in another ten years? Perhaps…

      Last I heard, PRC was absorbing as much as 40% of the high end camera market before the corruption crackdown. They’re still by far the most active LF market, too. It may be nothing more than a matter of scale, of course: 0.1% in your 20-mil population is only 20,000 potential customers – but in a 2-bil population it’s 2 million…

  10. As one of the many who has bothered you about this, I must apologise! Disclaimer: I recently acquired a DJI drone myself, and as a hobbyist for whom a Hasselblad camera is out of reach, I immediately assumed this rumour (if true) would be only good news for Hasselblad, as DJI has proved itself to be successful and innovative in a field where many companies (GoPro, 3DR) have failed. One thing that struck me about the rumour was that both companies recently introduced a product that quickly sold out and for which they struggled to meet demand (the Mavic Pro for DJI, the X1D of course for Hasselblad) and these products had one thing in common: they were the smallest products that the companies had to date released. The tipping point to commercial success in consumer electronics, it seems, is making your product small enough to fit in a messenger bag.

  11. Roger Dunham says:

    Ming ..my background is in strategy consulting as well .

    WHY DID DJI INVESTMENT IN HB ? …Certainly a company with over $1B in revenue isn t out looking for financial investments in $30M companies with a history of failed turnarounds . They see synergy in marrying HB high resolution systems with the DJI drones for aerial photography . This could have a strategic importance as the lower end of their market becomes a commodity . Considering that HB s profits at even industry norms would be insignificant to a $1B . ….having control of HB as a critical supplier would be much more important . No one said they were stupid and were investing in a failed company .

    WHY DID HB SEEK OR ACCEPT ADDITIONAL INVESTMENT FROM DJI …..simple ..they needed the money . You made a good case for how working capital requirements can get ahead of sales . You would expect that they planned for this . But two things changed for sure . (1) the X1D is late to market ..resulting in delays of fresh cash from sales and (2) orders greatly exceeded expectations ….increasing working capital requirements .

    CULTURAL ISSUES….MAYBE……The CEO was very clear that the MADE IN SWEDEN …..production was a real sense of pride for the work force . His stated business strategy was to bring HB back to a premier camera company focused on photography . If you track what has happened at Leica over the last decade …..you can understand how difficult it is to “ramp up “ a hand made product . The CEO s statements about ramping up to a larger number of orders don t reflect how difficult this is .

    The concern of course is that some aspects of production will be moved out of Sweden to access stronger capabilities in Asia . This could undermine the Swedish work force that is critical to the new product launches .

    IMPACT OF X1D ON HB….it appears that HB has a real winner of a product offering in the X1D …a product that could double HB revenues . Where in a $30M company would you find the human resources (people ) with the capabilities to achieve such a rapid growth ?

    Up until a few months a go ..the situation at HB looked pretty great ….they were getting back to being a premier camera company . The new products X1D and H6/100 were really exciting . Hand Made in Sweden was attractive especially to legacy HB owners . They were playing to their historical strengths . Then what happened :

    1. The X1D introduction appeared premature and the product simply wasn t ready (I tried one last August ) .

    2. X1D orders were delayed several times and a commitment for a 2016 deliver wasn t met .

    3. DJI increased their ownership of HB.

    4. KR …who frankly is in a position to know more and to render an opinion ….feels it maybe negative a offers his perspective .

    5. Outraged HB supporters ….paint Kevin as biased and with an agenda to get HB .

    None of this means HB is going out of business but it does expose that their challenges maybe more than what was generally perceived by the market place . Seems like information people might want before placing their investments .

    • “The concern of course is that some aspects of production will be moved out of Sweden to access stronger capabilities in Asia . This could undermine the Swedish work force that is critical to the new product launches .”
      This may not be an issue if there’s far more capacity required than they have workers or ability to source labor.

      1. The X1D introduction appeared premature and the product simply wasn t ready (I tried one last August ) .
      This was partially due to sensor delays and simply not having enough components to build enough cameras to test.

      2. X1D orders were delayed several times and a commitment for a 2016 deliver wasn t met
      Same: Sony’s post-earthquake problems affected everybody, including themselves (notice A7RII shortages, for instance).

      4. KR …who frankly is in a position to know more and to render an opinion ….feels it maybe negative a offers his perspective .
      5. Outraged HB supporters ….paint Kevin as biased and with an agenda to get HB .
      None of this means HB is going out of business but it does expose that their challenges maybe more than what was generally perceived by the market place . Seems like information people might want before placing their investments .

      What would be a much bigger problem is if there were capital shortages and no lifeline: that means no product. However, if you were the investor: why would you cut the head off the goose if it just needs more feed to produce eggs?

      The more I look at it, the more it looks like a simple case of factoring: you have demand, you have product, but you need some more cash to make it happen and deliver the calculated returns. No different from working capital loans.

  12. I have a different take on the Lula article. I do think there was to much unnecessary speculation and Kevin could/should do better. On the other hand, he has written numerous articles/interviews on the X1D so on balance it does not bother me. I’m capable of deciding what parts of an article I want to pay attention to. Walking away from Lula doesn’t work for me as I believe there is excellent content in general. I guess the adage “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water” is the way I look at it. I believe the investment by DJI is overwhelming positive and the X1D will ultimately be an important product in the MF space. My only disappointment is the company has in my opinion done a terrible job communicating with customers – end users and dealers. At the end of the day, the CEO is responsible for customer relations and I believe he is off to a bad start. I realize they were effected by many things, chip delays, strong demand etc. but that is not an excuse for poor communications. Will I cancel my order because the company can’t effectively communicate regarding delivery dates? Of course not — again why “throw the baby out with the bath water”

    • Kevin’s position wasn’t the subject of my editorial – rather the massively negative (and frankly, racist and bigoted) response online the minute ‘China’ and ‘takeover’ are mentioned anywhere.

      X1D: I don’t think it’s because they don’t want to communicate delivery dates, I think it’s honestly because they’re doing their best but as you say – other factors come into play like earthquakes and sensor monopolies…

      • Thanks for clarifying the first point as I wasn’t sensitive enough to it.

        Regarding the delivery dates, it does not excuse the CEOs lack of communication. I would rather they under promise and over deliver than the other way around. I have called 2 dealers in the last couple of weeks and neither have had communication regarding delivery dates. Not the best way to run a business in my opinion. Hopefully, he learns from this.

        • Agreed, and I suppose that’s why they’re doing the extended warranty deal – still, not ideal in my book. I doubt they’d have done it if they knew nothing would be ready to ship til much later, though.

  13. L. Ron Hubbard says:

    I would not worry about Hasselblad. They’ll be fine with the new owners. They survived the worst, the Lunar and other assorted Sony ripoffs.

  14. Sean Tomlinson says:

    I’m amused by the gnashing of teeth. Sure, this may be a mess for Hasselblad, but I doubt it for all the reasons you nicely state. I’m looking forward to seeing where DJI’s money can take Hasselblad. No, probably not down to mid-range enthusiast like me, but that’s okay. I just want to rent an X1D!

    • Economics work the same for almost every mass-produced product: the more they make, the cheaper they get. Remember at launch a ‘small sensor’ (by today’s standards) DSLR was the cost of today’s medium format…

  15. First of all my compliment Mr. Thein for this very good and intelligent analysis.

    I would add this:

    I was a LULA subscriber.
    After this shit article toned with jealousy by wounded animal, my decision was to CANCEL my subscription to them.
    It’s clear that they art double tied with Phase One, especially mr. Raper.

    Respect to Chinese Peoples, and to the workers at Hasselblad ! They work for us, and to gain to live with their families.

    I hope Hasselblad will not forget this misbehavior, here there are some points for a legal action for defamation.

    That’s my opinion. Happy new Year !

    • I wonder how many subscribers they lost – it does seem to have backfired a little.

      “I hope Hasselblad will not forget this misbehavior, here there are some points for a legal action for defamation.”
      Unless it’s true…which has still to be settled, but isn’t particularly important 🙂

  16. cpapenfuss says:

    If you look at DJI, you will see that they are actually not just a ‘consumer’ type company. They are heavily expanding in the areas of commercial: agriculture, geosystems, and of course entertainment. As far as I can see, they are extremely strong in the area of movie productions. All these areas can greatly benefit from this transaction. This deal totally makes sense IMHO.

    • Precisely. I’m pretty sure neither party would have done it if it didn’t make sense…

    • absolutely. I have a DJI S900/E1200, and while it’s definitely a work in progress, it’s a serious, professional piece of equipment and DJI’s innovation and general pace of iteration are a Good Thing to infuse into the camera industry. some kind of stills focused, large sensor, high resolution aerial camera properly integrated with the modular control and communication systems of DJI’s professional gear would be really interesting. I’d certainly buy it and stop flying my jerry rigged D810 around 😀

  17. Per Kylberg says:

    Being a AB Volvo employee for 41 years: Volvo sold off Volvo Cars to Ford as it could not invest enough in both commercial vehicles AND cars. Ford was a disaster, Volvo Cars employees told me it was 100% about CONTROL. After the Chinese take over – it was like back to the Swedish days – they felt free to do their best again! (All 2017 version S/V/XC90 models sold out, but you can order 2018 versions.)
    AB Volvo on the other hand has done really well transforming to a transnational company. My network was Sweden, Poland, France, USA, Mexico, Brazil, India, Japan, Korea, China, Australia. Communicating with all on a daily basis was not always easy – but after learning about every-bodies uniqueness – what a high quality of results! (And much fun too!) Multiculturalism is great!
    As for LL: after M Reichman sadly left us, it is such a boring site.

    • All in all, a good thing 🙂

    • Michiel953 says:

      Some more examples:

      Saab/GM/Victor Muller (Spyker): I owned 7 Saabs; the first ones GM Saab 9-3 and 9-5 Turbo’s, the last one the Victor Muller 9-5 Aero model. Fantastic design and car, that cost me a small fortune in repairs. GM screwed the company over severely, Victor rushed his 9-5 to market and failed to control his cashflow with predictable results.

      I then got myself an almost brand new Jag XF: almost screwed over by Ford (they did install a sense of quality control though), now for some years in Indian hands, that gave Jaguar (and Land Rover) the cash to develop new models. Great owner.

      I fully support Ming’s analysis.

      • Per Kylberg says:

        About the 9-5: Muller was never involved in that. It is a GM product derived from Opel Insignia. Muller and ceo Jonsson is under investigation for fraud, not yet any charges though. “Victor” just prolonged the pain, nothing else

        • Michiel953 says:

          Per: I know about the NG 9-5’s history. Muller didn’t develop it (great design though, more exciting and maybe just as beautiful as my current XF; we have to thank Jason Castriota for that I think, or was it Simon Padian?), but he did rush it to market.

          In essence it was a great car, albeit on a too heavy platform. Same goes for my XF (platform too heavy), where quality control is flawless, as opposed to the 9-5.

  18. Personally, I read it as great news if it’s true – the camera industry desperately needs shaking up by someone – and the lethargic, decaying incumbents aren’t likely to do it. That was my hope for Samsung – shame it didn’t work out there.
    DJI have demonstrated that Chinese companies (and I’m talking specifically about companies based in the PRC, not companies run by ethnic Chinese) *can* deliver quality products if they see money in it, can carve out and build a niche industry into something mainstream. They (and other competitor firms) have massively improved the quality of drones and brought down prices to the point where even I was considering buying one the other day – and I almost never take video. We need more and better photographic hardware – even if it’s something I won’t use personally it builds the market, reduces costs, and supports R&D.
    I really hope the rumour is true – I’ve seriously thought about an X1D, and although I can’t justify the price right now, if Hasselblad gets a shot of cash, expands sales and reduces costs, that might change….

  19. I have not actually read the LuLa article, and probably never will, as it was almost immediately clear it was sensationalistic in nature. Why people would think it’s a bad thing when a company, or person, increases their stake in another company is beyond me. Like you I believe this is a good thing, and as a consumer we might not even notice much of a difference at all.

    Thank you for your very reasonable post.

    My 2 sen

  20. Ming
    Over 100 emails!
    I think you should consider a separate subscription model and charge to read and respond to emails for rumors 😉
    Seriously this sounds a bit too clik-baity from LL, even if the rumors do turnout to have some basis.
    Regards

    • Tell me about it! I think the assumption is that because I am an ambassador it affords the same kind of status as one gets in government…which couldn’t possibly be further from the truth. We’re not even paid, nor is the deal exclusive, for starters…

  21. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    If DJI was one of those wanky venture capital companies that engage in takeovers for the purpose of stripping the corpse and flogging the remains, there might be some cause for concern. However, I am unaware of any chinese company investing except for the purpose of making a long term investment & reaping the rewards in the form of profits over time. They are scarcely likely to have bought a medium format camera company like Hasselblad for the purpose of revamping it to equip their drones with cameras, in competition with GoPro !!!

  22. Hasselblad have gone back to their roots and really generated some product excitement for the first time since the V system was abandoned.
    So they’re filling an order book and need more capital for production.
    China is currently the hot source of capital globally, and an existing Chinese owner wants to expand their capital commitment.
    Nothing to howl about here.
    If Europeans wanted to keep Hasselblad, they should’ve been the ones to stump up the money all those years ago. How Europe has fallen.

    • Bingo.

    • stanis riccadonna zolczynski says:

      Well, I have a Chinese neighbour and am fascinated by chinese culture and way of thinking but writing european manufacturing culture off is a bit premature, isn`t it. Money are not always determinating the quality. The long tradition cannot be just bought. This reminds me a comment long time ago made by japanese and chinese on their first contact with Italy. How this nation of pizza, mafia, opera singers and guitar pluckers and of general political disorder and corruption can produce such thing like Ferrari cars and Stradivarius violins?
      Summing up it would be most welcome the infusion of chinese capital to upkeep the masterpieces of european engineering and not trying to outcompete it with inferior stuff. Yes of course they can do the similar quality as well but at what cost? The Red Flag Leica clone-copy is a good example. And the tiny ballpen spheres which still are too big challenge to their mighty industry 🙂

  23. peterwgallagher says:

    Hi Ming: exactly. Intelligent analysis and plausible conclusions. Seems to me, if the photo business fizzles, you could always try… um financial analysis 😁 My only quibble would be that you are a bit hard on your patrimony. In my youth I used to carry around the Arthur Waley translations of the Tang poets, espeically Li Bo (whose name, I see is now anglicised as Li Bai). Superior taste (although a bit of a wastrel) and no business sense whatever, as I recall. Hope 2017 is a happy year for you. PWG.

    • Financial analysis: been there, done that.

      Patrimony: trust me, we all have it drummed into us. If anything, I was probably being a bit forgetful.

    • Double on that. See also Red Pine’s work on Han Hsan, Shi’wu and so many others. Not to mention the zen masters. Beauty has been at the core of China’s culture for thousands of years. No great leap forward or temporary capitalist spasm is going to change that. And now they are investing in a thing of beauty designed to create beauty… I say, they are recovering faster than expected! And to end my two cents off topic, just for the very beauty of it, Hsi Chou’s Broken Tablets as translated by Paul Hansen:

      A slice
      Of precious stone
      The pressing cold has split
      In the fallen script
      I see broken bugs

      Sinking
      At a distance
      On the hill’s grass edge, or half-revealed
      In an icy stream, deeds writ down, how
      Could people exist? Years
      Melted away, their affairs
      Already empty.

      I only hear
      Cypress on the wrecked
      Mound mourn together,
      Assuming rheumatoid grieving wind
      Rises.

  24. Roy Prasad says:

    I’m not sure what all the brouhaha is about. Most people on earth do not know that the Jaguar automobile company used to be owned by Ford, but nobody thought of it as a Ford. It is now owned by the Tata Motor Company of India, which also owns Rolls Royce. The venerable Whyte McKay Scottish whisky company is owned by Mallya Breweries of India, which also owns Kingfisher beer. Global Foundries, one of the top three IC manufacturing fabs in the world and located in Silicon Valley, is owned almost entirely by Abu Dhabi money. Harrods of London is owned by the government of Qatar. The Rockefeller Center in New York used to be owned by the Mitsubishi Group before it was bought back by a US consortium that includes Goldman Sachs. For some years, Mercedes-Benz was merged with Chrysler, and part of a company known as Diamler-Chrysler.

    Ownership is a dynamic thing, and it can keep changing hands, especially if a company is private. Change of ownership rarely has any impact down in the trenches (products, service, etc.)

    • Otherwise totally in agreement with you but Rolls Royce is actually owned by BMW.

      I think its a good move. Hasselblad needs money to help it grow and I would think DJI is a good owner with interest in helping them grow instead of hemorraghing the company ir just buying the name ie the brand.

      • Roy Prasad says:

        Sorry, my bad – I knew that, but mixed it up with Range Rover, which is owned by Tata! Rolls Royce and Mini Cooper are owned by BMW. Thanks for catching my oversight.

    • Agreed, with one correction: BMW currently owns Rolls-Royce…all of their current lines are actually F01/2 7-series platform derivatives.

      Ownership is independent of product, strategy and branding. But, just as most reviewers are not photographers, most internet commentators are not businesspeople… 🙂

    • Jaguar is a very good example – Ford were a disaster for Jag, with the engine revamp that lead to levels of reliability not seen in the English motor industry since the days of British Leyland, the awful re-badging of Ford econoboxes as “entry-level’ Jags and so on. Their Indian owners have demonstrated a great deal more understanding of the kind of sports sedans that were the foundation of Jag’s success in the 50s and 60s.

      Frankly, a great deal of the assumption that DJI will be bad because they’re not European or American is remarkably racist, and it’s been disappointing to see how much currency it’s had in a number of photographic forums[1].

      It’s also rather polite of you, Ming, not to point out that Kevin’s potted history covered the period when he was a Phase One employee, or that he apparently remains a Phase One shareholder, something that a journalist might consider pretty ethically important to disclose in that write-up.

      [1[ But perhaps not surprising given the degree to which photography has a back ground of well-heeled white guys in the west.

  25. While I have no stake in Hasselblad (although I’d love to try the new backs and mirrorless out!) it’s nice to read a reasoned, measured take on it. I wonder if – but hope not – there’s a certain “elitism” behind the chatter from the grapevine, in much the same way that, for instance, certain Leica users who are said to look down on lenses made in Canada as “not the real thing”. As Hasselblad, to those who are aware of it, has an image of this quintessentially European entity, people may feel somehow threatened or “let down” when other players get involved. While this would of course be both childish and petulant, nostalgia is a strong force…

    Either way, it’s adapt or perish, isn’t it? So presumably the Hasselblad people are doing this with the aim of keeping the company going in the right direction.

    (Speaking of Luminous Landscape, their interview with the new Hasselblad CEO is very good. He really seems to have his head on straight!)

    • Elitism: no question. It happens all over the industry: I was told categorically by Nikon several years ago that ‘we only work with Caucasians or Japanese’ – I guess this world is out 🙂

      I’m not sure they’d have been granted an interview post that article…but it’s telling that there’s been no real backlash against them.

      • That’s rather unwise of Nikon to make comments like that. Was that from Nikon Japan itself, or a local branch? Unfortunately, either way I can also imagine it. While I live in Japan, and in general I like the country a great deal, it does have what sometimes appears to be a flat-out inferiority complex towards – there’s no way to phrase this delicately – white, western people – and similarly, a not-always-very-well-hidden superiority complex towards other Asian countries (and my wife, who is Japanese, concurs entirely with my opinion, while phrasing it far more bluntly : “we worship the west and look down on other Asians”). Still, it’s their loss if they’re going to take that kind of attitude…

      • “I was told categorically by Nikon several years ago that ‘we only work with Caucasians or Japanese’ ”

        Wow, that takes the cake for racism, and frankly, honesty.

  26. Vibha Ravi says:

    I only know of as much background to this story as you have woven in here. My guess is that things to which emotions are attached, say our hobbies like photography, are the ones to which a rational response to events can’t be expected. One loves photography, not washing clothes. So, if a change happens at a legendary company in this business, it’s bound to attract a more emotional response because people are not looking at things from purely a business angle.

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