BlackBerry cofounder plots comeback, enters preliminary takeover talks

The former co-chief executive of embattled smartphone giant BlackBerry, Mike Lazaridis, has reportedly entered into preliminary talks to take over the company he cofounded.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Lazaridis has entered into preliminary takeover talks with a number of major private equity firms, including the Blackstone Group and the Carlyle Group, over a potential joint bid for the Canadian mobile phone company.

Lazaridis, along with fellow chief executive Jim Balsillie, stepped down from the helm of the smartphone giant in January 2012 following weeks of speculation about a change in management team in favour of current chief executive Thorsten Heins.

The resignation came after the company announced delays to smartphones running its new touchscreen-based Blackberry 10 operating system, which did not end up shipping until a year later.

“In every successful company that’s developed by founders, there comes a time when it enters a new phase of growth and it’s time for the founders to pass the baton to new management,” Lazaridis said at the time.

His fellow chief executive, Jim Balsillie, notoriously criticised Apple over its app store model in 2010, creating a popular perception the company’s management team was out of touch.

“You don’t need an app for the web. We believe you can bring the mobile to the web, but you don’t need to go through some kind of control point,” Balsillie said.

“It is really not about a set of proprietary rules or about ‘appifying’ the web. The web needs a platform that allows you to use your existing web content, not apps.”

Despite his resignation, Lazaridis still owns about 5.7% of the company, making him the second-largest shareholder after Canadian investment guru and former director Prem Watsa, who holds 9.9% through his Fairfax Financial Holdings group.

Last month, the company announced the creation of a special five-member committee to look at possible sale options for the embattled smartphone maker, with directors hoping to wrap up any sale by November.

Watsa’s Fairfax Financial Holdings and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board have emerged as leading bidders, although there is a possibility the company could be broken up with Canadian foreign investment laws reducing the likelihood of a serious foreign bid.

The sale comes amid quarterly losses of nearly $US1 billion, large layoffs and delays to the release of its BBM messenger app for iOS and Android.


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