BlackBerry Ltd. founder Mike Lazaridis and his old friend and co-founder Douglas Fregin filed paperwork with financial regulators that paves the way for a takeover bid for the embattled Waterloo, Ont. smartphone maker.
Sources say any offer from Mr. Lazaridis and Mr. Fregin would have no connection to the US$4.7-billion takeover offer from Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. that was tentatively agreed to by BlackBerry’s board of directors last month.
The two men are considering a joint bid “with the goal of stabilizing and ultimately reinventing the company based on a plan developed by them,” according to documentsfiled with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission.
An offer from the co-founders would set up a potential bidding war for BlackBerry between two of the company’s largest individual shareholders. Together, Mr. Lazaridis and Mr. Fregin — who have both severed ties with the company — control about 8% of the Waterloo, Ont.-based company, less than the 10% stake held by Fairfax.
For BlackBerry, the re-emergence of the company’s founders as potential bidders represents the latest chapter in a painful and drawn out downfall. The pioneer in the smartphone market has seen its star fade and its profits disappear in the face of devastating competition from Apple Inc.’s iPhone and devices running on Google Inc.’s Android software.
After BlackBerry chief executive Thorsten Heins announced the company was examining “strategic alternatives” in late August, effectively putting the struggling company up for sale, no buyers emerged until Fairfax and its chairman and former BlackBerry board member Prem Watsa stepped up with a plan to purchase the company with a consortium of investors and take it private.
However, Fairfax has yet to name any of its partners, which has caused many observers to cast doubt on the deal. Meanwhile, several other technology companies — including Google Inc., SAP and Cisco — are rumoured to be interested in purchasing BlackBerry or some of its divisions. Several major Canadian public sector pension funds have been approached, but there is no indication any of them are considering a bid.
Fairfax president Paul Rivett declined to comment. A spokesman representing Mr. Lazaridis and Mr. Fregin said the two would not be commenting beyond the regulatory filing.
The former BlackBerry executives have hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Centerview Partners LLC to help study their options.
Mr. Lazaridis, who left BlackBerry’s board in March, and Mr. Fregin, who retired from BlackBerry in 2007, now own Quantum Valley Investments, an investment firm with a focus on developing quantum computing technology.
Photo and Article from Financial Post.