In from the cold: BlackBerry co-founders consider buy back

According to a securities filing on Thursday, BlackBerry co-founders Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin are considering a bid to buy the struggling brand.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 26 Nov 2013
It’s been a turbulent year for BlackBerry, culminating in the announcement of a sale last month. A group of buyers led by its largest shareholder were set to step in buy the troubled Canadian mobile phone company, but now they could face competition as the company’s co-founders enter the bidding war.

In a securities filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday, Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin disclosed they are considering a joint bid of the company.  The duo currently own 8% of shares between them, which puts them not far behind Fairfax Financial Holdings, which owns 10% and is currently leading a takeover bid of $4.7bn – or $9 a share.

The filing said the two are considering ‘all the available options’ for the stake, including a potential acquisition ‘either by themselves or with interested investors’. Like Fairfax, Lazaridis and Fregin face the next hurdle of raising the capital to buy the company. BlackBerry watchers have speculated they could turn to Canada's deep-pocketed pension funds for cash.

Lazaridis and Fregin, who together founded the company then known as Research In Motion Ltd in 1985, have hired Goldman Sachs and Centerview Partners LLC to help them with the bid. Lazaridis is credited with growing the BlackBerry brand into the powerhouse it became in the early 2000s, although Fregin played a more minor role.

Lazaridis served as co-CEO and co-chairman with Jim Balsillie, a marketing specialist. Both stepped down from those roles early last year as the company's outlook turned sour. At its peak, BlackBerry controlled half of the smartphone market, but the company had struggled to compete with the likes of Apple and various competing models that run Google's Android software.

Last month BlackBerry, which was once worth more than $80bn, warned the stock market that it was running up a massive quarterly loss of almost $1bn (£620m) and preparing to lay off 40% of its global workforce. Shares dropped from $10.27 to $8.27 on the gloomy update and later fell further.

However, shares inched up 1% to $8.2 this morning on news of the co-founders interest in buying the company. Could this be a good omen for the company? It wouldn't be the first fruit-flavoured tech business to have been saved spectacularly by its founders...

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