As The Time Clock Ticks, Beleaguered BlackBerry Weighs Options


Ten percent stakeholder Fairfax Financial offered to take BlackBerry private in a $4.7 billion deal, promising other investors would be involved in financing the company as well.

The offer was made in late September and must be accepted by Nov. 4 should BlackBerry choose to go ahead with the deal. In the following days and weeks, analysts have deemed the offer too high and have been skeptical that co-investors have yet to be named.

"The Fairfax deal is certainly under suspicion. The price they quoted is overpriced based on decline," said Gartner's Dulaney.

Though confidence in investors' ability to take the company private is shrinking, it is one of the most attractive options for BlackBerry loyalists and partners who want to see the company succeed.

Rick Jordan, director of sales and strategic alliances at Toronto-based solution provider and BlackBerry partner Tenet Computer Group, has considered himself a BlackBerry advocate through thick and thin. Though Jordan continues to believe in the quality of BlackBerry products, he is discouraged by the company's recent lack of forthrightness with its partners.

"They can take out ads and relay to the enterprise market that they are not going away. But we as a partner have yet to have someone reach out to us and tell us what they can do to help us help them," Jordan said.

Whether the company goes private in the investor deal or not, Jordan said BlackBerry will have to rely on its partners to keep BlackBerry products in the enterprise. Until partners are given more clarity on the future of the company, Jordan said, it's difficult to deliver any reassurance to customers.

Lazaridis has commissioned Goldman Sachs Group to help him buy and save the company that he helped propel to the front lines of innovation before watching it tumble into its current predicament.

"BlackBerry is Lazaridis' baby," Dulaney said. "If he buys it back, he believes he'll be saving a Canadian company, he'll be saving his baby. But he is going to buy it at a much lower price point than Fairfax."

Xylotek's Grosfield said Lazaridis may be the best bet for BlackBerry, partners and consumers alike.

"The fact that they are from top to bottom dedicating their efforts to refocusing on the business space as opposed to consumer markets is a good sign," Grosfield said. "If Lazaridis and his partner can pull together the financing to assist them, then they will certainly be able to refocus the vision of the company."

Dulaney added, "I think it's a matter of whether Fairfax or Lazaridis buys them. Lazaridis will probably try to save it; Fairfax will probably split it up. In order to survive, they have to get out of the public eye right away."

PUBLISHED OCT. 16, 2013