BlackBerry Founder Lazaridis Considers Buying Back His Brand: Report
BlackBerry founder Mike Lazaridis, who gave up his co-CEO position in January 2012 and in March 2013 stepped down from the BlackBerry board, is considering taking over the company again.
Lazaridis has approached private-equity firms Blackstone Group and the Carlyle Group about "possibly mounting a joint bid for the struggling phone maker," the Wall Street Journal reported Sept. 20.
More than a year ago, BlackBerry brought in financial advisers to perform a strategic review, and Aug. 12 it finally put the company up for sale. In a statement, it announced it was open to "possible joint ventures, strategic partnerships or alliances, a sale of the company or other possible transactions."
Since then, there has been talk of Canadian investors joining together to save the struggling BlackBerry and keep in Canada what has been called a "jewel" in the country's crown.
On Sept. 20, BlackBerry announced preliminary fiscal 2014 second-quarter results, which include an expected operating loss of up to $995 million.
Lazaridis and BlackBerry
The science-minded Mike Lazaridis founded BlackBerry in 1984, in part with help from a loan from his parents. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, the company went from having 10 employees in 1992—including co-CEO Jim Balsillie, a business-minded complement to the tech-enamored Lazaridis—to being worth more than $68 billion at its height in late 2007.
BlackBerry's success came thanks to its mobile push email capabilities, an industry first, and its enterprise-grade security, which is still considered the best in the industry. The company has struggled to remain relevant, however, since the introduction of the Apple iPhone and has been further undone, in recent years, by the success of Android-running devices and the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement, which opened enterprises—once the exclusive turf of BlackBerry—to a variety of mobile platforms and devices.
Lazaris always seemed particularly pained by the crumbling of a company he was heavily emotionally invested in.
When in January 2013 new CEO Thorsten Heins introduced BlackBerry 10—the company's long-coming new mobile platform, years-long delays to which further spurred the undoing of BlackBerry and led to the departure of Lazaridis and Balsillie—Lazaridis was sitting in the front row at the New York venue.
"Thank you so much for guiding us into the future," Heins told a clearly moved Lazaridis, who stood and gave a quick wave to the crowd.
When Balsillie and Lazaridis announced, a year earlier, that they were handing the reins to Heins, Lazaridis insisted on his confidence in BlackBerry's future, saying he intended to purchase an "additional $50 million of the company's shares, as permitted, in the open market."
In March 2012, Balsillie announced he was stepping down from his position on the BlackBerry board.
The following February, The New York Times reported that a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission showed Lazaridis owned a nearly 6 percent share of the company, while Balsillie, who once owned a third of the company, no longer owned a single share.
During BlackBerry's March 28, 2013, earnings call, the company announced that Lazaridis was retiring as vice president and director of the BlackBerry board, in order to launch Quantum Valley Investments.
Lazaridis is "widely recognized as one of Canada's greatest innovators," Heins said during the call. "We deeply respect and appreciate Mike's desire to devote his full-time efforts to his exciting new venture, and we wish him all the best."