Blackberry Scraps Plans to Go Private – Watsa Invests $1 Billion and Takes Over

nullJohn Chen is the new interim CEO of Blackberry.

Today was the day the Fairfax Financial (Prem Watsa) deal was supposed to go to the next phase. Watsa had signed a deal some months ago to buy the company for $4.7 billion and take it private.

But when he couldn’t arrange the financing the way he wanted he pulled a rabbit out of a hat and essentially took the company over by agreeing to “invest” $1 billion.

This means the company will not be going private, and shareholders will not be forced to sell their shares for $9 (or enter into a class action suit to try to block the sale.)

Today’s events mark the continuation of much of the indecision over the future of Blackberry, with a “turnaround” being far from a certainty. The company has dumped Thorsten Heins as CEO after what many consider his lacklustre performance of the past few months.

Heins has been all but invisible since August, and the ouster was taken for granted by many BB watchers. Other management people are likely to go before the transition is completed.

Today also marks a new beginning of sorts, at least in the sense that Blackberry’s management and board of directors have clearly stated their intent to not sell the company, to not go private, and given some clearer indication of the company’s emphasis for the future. Blackberry is not going to be broken up, and the company is not going to be sold to another tech company and dismantled.

So far Heins’ replacement is only an “interim” CEO in the person of John Chen, former CEO of Sybase. Chen’s resume includes a successful raising from the almost dead of Sybase to become a leader in enterprise mobile apps. So he has some relevant experience and many of the right connections.

Both Chen and Watsa have said they will not be dismantling the company, or shutting down its handset division. Many analysts think the handset division is doomed. BB loyalists tend to think otherwise, assuming that with the right moves, some good luck, and some well designed marketing market share can be won back from iOS, Android and Windows 8. For now both Watsa and Chen seems to be in that optimistic camp.

Photo – National Post

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