BlackBerry inks funding deal as Fairfax buy falls through; CEO axed - Mobile World Live

BlackBerry inks funding deal as Fairfax buy falls through; CEO axed

04 NOV 2013
Thorsten Heins

BlackBerry said that it had secured a $1 billion investment from Fairfax Financial and other unnamed backers, with Thorsten Heins, incumbent CEO (pictured), being shown the door in the process.

This comes at a time when Fairfax Financial was expected to be making a firm offer to acquire BlackBerry and take it private – a deal which had looked increasingly shaky in the weeks that have passed since it was first announced.

While Barbara Stymiest, chair of the BlackBerry board, said that the current funding “provides an immediate cash injection on terms favourable to BlackBerry”, it does not resolve the company’s long-term uncertainty.

Indeed, the move makes it look as if other bids – such as those mooted to involve Cerberus Capital Management, Qualcomm and Mike Laziridis, former BlackBerry co-CEO – were also unlikely to come to fruition, leaving the company out on its own.

Although BlackBerry undoubtedly has some attractive assets, including its patents, enterprise mobile capabilities, and possibly its BBM social network, its core devices business is seen as a drag.

Thorsten Heins, who the board “wish well in his future endeavours”, is being replaced on an interim basis by John Chen, former chairman and CEO of Sybase.

Chen is also being appointed as executive chair of the BlackBerry board, and will be “responsible for the strategic direction, strategic relationships and organisational goals of BlackBerry”.

In a report at the time of his departure from SAP, owner of Sybase, Business Insider positioned  the executive as a “turnaround expert”, having taken the loss-making database company into a profitable enterprise mobility player, before it was acquired by SAP.

And the executive subsequently joined private equity firm Silver Lake Partners as a senior advisor – it is not clear if this company is involved in the BlackBerry deal.

“BlackBerry is an iconic brand with enormous potential – but it’s going to take time, discipline and tough decisions to reclaim our success. I look forward to leading BlackBerry in its turnaround and business model transformation for the benefit of all of its constituencies, including its customers, shareholders and employees,” he said in a statement.

Prem Watsa, chairman and CEO of Fairfax, will be appointed lead director and chair of the compensation, nomination and governance committees at BlackBerry.

Existing director David Kerr also intends to resign.

Under the terms of the transaction, Fairfax and its partners will subscribe for $1 billion of unsecured subordinated convertible debentures, convertible into common shares of BlackBerry at a price of $10.00 per share – a 28.7 per cent premium to the closing price on 1 November.

Based on the number of common shares outstanding, if all $1 billion of debentures were converted, it would represent around 16 per cent of the total.

The closing of the transaction is subject to conditions including approval of the Toronto Stock Exchange.


Steve Costello

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