Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

BlackBerry’s Busy Weekend of Shareholder Lawsuits and Buyout Chatter

If it seems as though things couldn’t get any more difficult for the beleaguered Canadian smart phone company BlackBerry, they appeared to do precisely that this weekend.

On Friday came the news of a shareholder lawsuit. Kahn Swick & Foti, a New Orleans law firm, announced the commencement of the suit on Friday; they are seeking class action status.

The suit accuses BlackBerry of “making a series of materially false and misleading statements and omissions related to the Company’s business and operations,” relating to its Sept. 20 pre-announcement of a huge quarterly loss. Seven days later, the company reported a $965 million operating loss.

“BlackBerry failed to inform investors that, contrary to the Company’s statements that its new BlackBerry 10 line of smart phones financially strengthened BlackBerry and positioned the Company on the road to recovery, BlackBerry’s business, operations and financial situation was made even worse by the introduction of the BlackBerry 10 platform, which was poorly received by the market,” the law firm said in its press release. The case was filed late Friday in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan by investor Marvin Pearlstein. A spokesman for BlackBerry didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment. Update: Blackberry spokesman Adam Emery says via email: “We are reviewing the document. No comment at this time.”

The lawsuit comes amid reports that several tech companies are sizing BlackBerry up for a takeover. Reuters reported on Friday that Cisco Systems, SAP and Google are among the companies looking to buy out all or part of BlackBerry.

Other parties would certainly want to have a chance to kick what’s left of the tires at BlackBerry and get a look at the books as part of any competitive bidding process that might result from a $4.7 billion buyout offer by its largest shareholder, Fairfax Financial. Fairfax’s offer allows for a go-shop period, and it’s as yet unclear how Fairfax would finance such a deal in the first place.

Spokespeople for Cisco and Google didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment. Jim Dever, a spokesman for SAP, said the company doesn’t comment on “rumors and speculation.”

Word of interest by the tech firms follows a report on Oct. 2 that the private equity firm Cerebus was interested in bidding on BlackBerry. The same day, it was revealed that the company is looking to divest itself of a large portion of its commercial real estate as a way to cut operating costs and preserve cash. It still owns most of the 20 or so buildings it has purchased in Canada’s Technology Triangle.

But it may have to hurry. On Oct. 4 an analyst estimated that BlackBerry could run out of money within 18 months.

Update: I just received a copy of the legal complaint in the lawsuit filed on Friday. Here it is in the original.

Pearlstein v Blackberry

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work