News unsettles confidence in firm as it struggles to regain position
BlackBerry‘s former co chief executive Jim Balsillie has quietly disposed of his entire stake in the Canadian manufacturer, it has emerged, putting a dent in the company’s share price as nervous investors followed suit. The company, until recently known as RIM, is struggling to regain ground lost to Apple and Samsung, having launched its make-or-break BB10 platform and new smartphones only a few weeks ago.
But now filings lodged with US regulators indicate even BlackBerry’s own former joint chief appeared to have lost faith in the company’s direction as far back as a year ago, having ditched his remaining shares.
According to the filings that have just come to light, Balsillie – who at one point owned about five per cent of the firm or 27 million shares – cleared out the rest of his holding almost as soon as he stepped down in January 2012 along with fellow CEO Mike Lazaridis.
It’s not known how much he got for his shares or exactly when they were sold, though the stock had a market value of just under $15 a share at the end of 2011 which would have made Balsillie’s personal stake worth nearly $400 million at that time.
The two men also pocketed a combined $12 million when they stepped down as co-CEOs.
Balsillie joined the company then known as RIM in the early 1990s when it was a startup with a mixed bag of offerings.
He invested $250,000 of his own money by re-mortgaging his house and within a few years the company launched its first sales success, a clamshell wireless handheld pager that eventually evolved into the best-selling BlackBerry.
Balsillie is also credited with pushing the BlackBerry into the mainstream, touting the phone on Wall Street and handed it out for free at select technology events.
Last night [14th February 2013] the company’s shares closed at $15 from a high of around $18 a few weeks earlier, having also been hit on Wednesday when it was revealed that Home Depot, the US home improvement store, was dropping BlackBerry as its handset supplier.
That news alone wiped 8 per cent off the stock’s value.
According to news agency Bloomberg, Fairfax Financial Holdings is now BlackBerry’s largest shareholder with a stake of almost 10 per cent.
Fairfax is run by Canadian tycoon Prem Watsa, dubbed the Warren Buffet of the North, and who now sits on BlackBerry’s board having joined at about the time Balsillie and Lazaridis departed.