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BlackBerry Ltd founders looking at buying company

Oct 11 2013, 10:57 IST
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Mike Lazaridis and co-founder Douglas Fregin are weighing taking over the BlackBerry as it searches for a saviour. (AP) Mike Lazaridis and co-founder Douglas Fregin are weighing taking over the BlackBerry as it searches for a saviour. (AP)
SummaryMike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin currently own 8 per cent in the distressed smartphone company.

BlackBerry founders Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin are weighing taking over the distressed smartphone company as it searches for a savior.

Lazaridis said Thursday in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that he and Fregin are looking to potentially acquire the 92 per cent of the shares they don't currently own, either by themselves or with other interested parties. They have hired Goldman Sachs and Centerview Partners to help them explore options.

The filing said Lazaridis and Fregin own 8 per cent of BlackBerry.

Their announcement is the latest sign of investor interest in BlackBerry after the company launched a review to consider a possible sale or break-up of its operations. The Canadian company announced last month that Prem Watsa's Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., which owns close to 10 per cent of the company, signed a letter of intent that "contemplates" buying BlackBerry for $9 a share, or $4.7 billion. Fairfax, BlackBerry's largest shareholder, is trying to attract other investors. Private equity firm Cerberus is also interested in looking at Blackberry's books as a step toward a possible bid.

The stock is trading below Fairfax's tentative offer on fears that the deal won't go through or that the final price will be lower. Shares of the company rose 9 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $8.20 Thursday.

The BlackBerry, pioneered in 1999, was once the dominant smartphone for on-the-go business people and other consumers. It could be so addictive that it was nicknamed "the CrackBerry." But then came a new generation of competing smartphones, starting with Apple's iPhone in 2007. The BlackBerry suddenly looked ancient. The company's sales and market share shrank and it lost billions in market value.

This year's much-delayed launch of BlackBerry 10 system and the fancier devices that use it was supposed to rejuvenate the brand and lure customers. It did not work. Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry recently announced 4,500 layoffs, or 40 percent of its global workforce, and reported a quarterly loss of nearly $1 billion.

The founders may be invested in keeping the struggling BlackBerry from being broken up in a sales process.

"It's his baby. If anyone is going to see value in the company it's him," said BGC analyst Colin Gillis, referring to Lazaridis. "He founded this company. I'm sure it's not pleasant to watch the spot it is in and he sees value in it. It must hurt to see reports that this thing is going to get ripped

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