BlackBerry Sale Could Rob Canada of Its High-Tech Crown Jewel

 
 
By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2013-08-13
 
 
 

Will BlackBerry, the pride of Canada, remain in Canada?

That's the question being asked, now that BlackBerry has officially announced that it's open to considering "possible joint ventures, strategic partnerships or alliances, a sale of the company or other possible transactions."

Rumors are swirling about the possibility of Canadian investors banding together to keep the company in Canadian hands, Bloomberg reported Aug. 13, a day after BlackBerry's big announcement.

Such a deal, said the report, could help avoid the "national embarrassment that followed Nortel Networks Corp.'s failure four years ago."

BlackBerry's announcement included news that Prem Watsa, CEO of Fairfax Financial, BlackBerry's largest shareholder, was stepping down from the BlackBerry board, an "appropriate" gesture, Watsa said, in light of the creation a new special committee to help determine BlackBerry's fate.

"I continue to be a strong supporter of the Company, the Board and Management as they move forward during this process," Watsa said in the Aug. 12 statement, "and Fairfax Financial has no current intention of selling its shares."

With Watsa, a Toronto business man, stepping down, the possibility is created "that he may play a role in rescuing the company," said the Bloomberg report.

BlackBerry, however, imagines a Google-caliber tech giant as its ideal buyer, the New York Post reported Aug. 13.

"Ideally, they'd want to be put into a big technology company," said a source, according to the Post.

The Canadian government had little to say on the matter of where BlackBerry winds up, aside from offering its best wishes.

"We recognize BlackBerry is exploring strategic alternatives to enhance its competitiveness; we wish [it] well," a spokesperson told Reuters. "However, we do not comment on speculation."

Reuters pointed out that former industry minister Christian Paradis has referred to BlackBerry as a "Canadian jewel," and Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said he wants BlackBerry to grow "as a Canadian company."

In an "elegy" posted to Forbes Aug. 13, Roger Kay, principal analyst at EndPoint Technology, spoke of the sweet, distinct Canadian-ness of the company.

"I like BlackBerry also because it was Canadian, and there was something hopeful and friendly about that," Kay wrote. "I could hear it in the voices of the many Canadian journalists and others I spoke with over the years about BlackBerry. Like, what do you think of the home team, eh? Which always nonplussed me. But I did my best to issue compliments and be kind."

Kay went to point out that Canada would be far from alone, were it to lose its national brand. Holland lost Philips and Tulip; Italy lost Olivetti; Germany lost Siemens; and even Sweden lost Ericsson.

Less important than what Canada loses or keeps, Kay ultimately suggests, is that BlackBerry is, and for some time has been, dead on its feet.

"It was killed," he wrote, "as if by a Samurai warrior, when Apple, with one smooth gesture, slew it standing, its eyes still open in continuous disbelief at its sudden fate."

Follow Michelle Maisto on Twitter.

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