BlackBerry Founders Lazaridis, Fregin Consider Buying It Back
BlackBerry may not be the easy buy that Fairfax Financial Holdings perhaps anticipated.
As BlackBerry's top shareholder conducts a due-diligence process, following its $4.7 billion bid for the ailing Canadian smartphone maker, other suitors are coming around.
Cisco, SAP, Google and Samsung have reportedly all expressed interest in acquiring parts of the company—an option that BlackBerry is now "more open to," Bloomberg reported Oct. 9.
Additionally, BlackBerry co-founder Mike Lazaridis is back in the mix.
Lazaridis approached private-equity firms Blackstone Group and the Carlyle Group about possibly joining together to make a bid for RIM, the Wall Street Journal reported Sept. 20. Three days later, BlackBerry announced its LOI with Fairfax, and Lazaridis seemed to be out of the running. ("I very much doubt Lazaridis will get into a bidding war," one analyst told eWEEK, after the Fairfax announcement.)
But Lazaridis hasn't exited yet. With Douglas Fregin, another co-founder and former vice president of BlackBerry (then known as Research In Motion), Lazaridis filed a Schedule 13D form with the Securities and Exchange Commission Oct. 8.
The form states that the pair are "considering all available options with respect to their holdings ... including ... a potential acquisition of all the outstanding shares of [BlackBerry] that they do not currently own."
It also states that Lazaridis and Fregin have hired, "among other advisors," Goldman, Sachs & Co and Centerview Partners, to assist them with a review of their options.
Lazaridis founded RIM in 1984, enjoyed the BlackBerry handset's position at the top of the smartphone market—a darling of the enterprise—and was unable to reverse a downturn instigated by the 2007 introduction of the Apple iPhone. In 2012, Lazaridis, with co-CEO Jim Balsillie, handed leadership of the company over to co-COO Thorston Heins.
Lazaridis stayed on as a vice president and director of the BlackBerry board until March 2013, when he announced he was leaving the company to launch Quantum Valley Investments (QVI).
Alongside Lazaridis, Fregin is a managing partner of QVI, which focuses on quantum computing—an agenda of using properties of atoms to perform calculations faster than traditional computers can, per Webopedia. According to the company's site, Lazaridis and Fregin have been "close friends since grade 5."
Open to a Break-Up
BlackBerry's openness to breaking up the company come amid concerns that Fairfax "may be unable to line up funding or partners" to back its offer, Bloomberg reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter.
"A breakup would let parties bid for BlackBerry's most valuable pieces, such as its patents or enterprise network," the report added.
It also quoted Albert Fried strategist Sachin Shah, who said that whether or not Fairfax gets it financing, "breaking it up sounds more appetizing for all involved."
Following a more than year-long strategic review by third parties, BlackBerry announced Aug. 12 that it is open to "strategic alternatives," which could include "possible joint ventures, strategic partnerships or alliances, a sale of the company or other possible transactions."
During the company's fiscal 2014 second quarter, announced Sept. 27, the company lost $965 million dollars.
"We understand how some of the activities we are going through create uncertainty," Heins said in a statement, "but we remain a financially strong company."