No sooner had the ink dried (almost!) after I wrote to you in last year's Annual Report about BlackBerry (BBRY), than BlackBerry became a daily headline. The Board of Directors of BlackBerry decided to form a Special Committee to look at all options for the company. As we were the biggest shareholder in the company (almost 10%) and were potentially conflicted by my being on the Board, I decided to resign as a director so we could review all our options. On September 23, 2013, Fairfax made an offer to take BlackBerry private at $9 per share, subject to a six-week due diligence period. To do our due diligence, we hired a very experienced team led by Sanjay Jha, who ran Motorola, Sandeep Chennakeshu, who was President of Ericsson Mobile Platforms, and John Bucher, who was Chief Strategy Officer at Motorola Mobility. Briefly stated, their conclusions were simply: 1) the company had excellent assets, 2) the management teams had made many mistakes along the way, and 3) the company could not afford high cost LBO debt. For the first time in our history, our due diligence resulted in our not being able to complete an announced deal. After discussions with the Special Committee, led by its Chair Tim Dattels, instead of continuing with a go-private transaction, we proposed to raise $1.25 billion for BlackBerry in the form of 6% seven-year convertible debentures (convertible at $10 per share into BlackBerry stock) and proposed that John Chen be concurrently appointed as Executive Chairman of BlackBerry.
John Chen has an extraordinary background. After immigrating to the U.S. from Hong Kong at the age of 16, John gained a Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Brown and a Master's from Caltech. He then trained at Burroughs (Unisys), turned around Pyramid Technology Corp., and then very successfully resurrected Sybase and ran it profitably for about 15 years. When John took over Sybase in 1998, it had lost money for four years, its stock price Continue Reading »