BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins Could Walk Away With $55.6 Million

Don't cry for Thorsten Heins. While his BlackBerry turnaround plans didn't pan out, selling the company, and getting fired, could earn him millions.

BlackBerry announced earlier this week that, after much consideration, it was finally open to the idea of being bought. It was an announcement that many might have read as an admission—a last resort that BlackBerry has been pushing and racing and striving to avoid.

But don't feel too badly for BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins, Bloomberg suggested Aug. 16, reporting that, according to a May proxy filing, Heins stands to walk away with $55.6 million.

That's the amount Heins would take away if BlackBerry got a new owner and Heins was relieved of his position. According to the report, the $55.6 million figure is a combination of salary, incentive payments and equity awards, based on BlackBerry's stock price at the end of the company's fiscal fourth quarter, which ended March 28.

If the company isn't sold but Heins is still relieved of his duties, he'd instead receive $22 million, based on salary, incentive payments and equity awards. The equity awards are $48 million if he's fired by the new owners or $16.1 million if he's simply let go.

Strategic Alternatives

Heins was upgraded from COO to CEO in January 2012, replacing co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie. The pair had built a company that offered what was widely considered the gold standard in smartphones and email services, but then— underestimating the allure of great design and the will of consumers—watched it come crumbling down.

In May 2012, Heins and his team hired J. P. Morgan Securities and RBC Capital Markets to perform a "strategic review" to "evaluate the relative merits and feasibility of various financial strategies, including opportunities to leverage the BlackBerry platform through partnerships, licensing opportunities and strategic business model alternatives."

The company was deep into the process, though, of creating BlackBerry 10, its new mobile platform, and Heins repeatedly insisted that no decision would be made until the platform and new smartphones were introduced and the company had a strong sense of how the long-awaited products were faring.

By August BlackBerry apparently decided where things stood, and Aug. 12 released a statement saying it had formed a Special Committee "to explore strategic alternatives" and that the company is open to "among other things, possible joint ventures, strategic ventures, strategic partnerships or alliances, a sale of the company or other possible transactions."

It is rumored that successful Toronto businessman Prem Watsa, who stepped down from the BlackBerry board in light of the creation of the Special Committee, is planning to team with other Canadian investors to keep the company in Canada.

Analysts estimate that the company could be worth up to $10 billion, thanks in large part to its patent portfolio. Earlier this year, Intellectual Asset Management named BlackBerry in a list of only 14 companies that it said own more than 3,400 patents.

Sources close to BlackBerry have said the company is hoping for a large, Google-caliber buyer. MDB Capital Group CEO Chris Marlett told AllThingsD that "Microsoft could justify paying ... $8 billion to $10 billion" for BlackBerry.