Fairfax to rescue BlackBerry, eh? - Macleans.ca

Fairfax to rescue BlackBerry, eh?

Insurance company buys risk-averse technology giant — how very Canadian


Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

So this is how it ends for the increasingly irrelevant BlackBerry—bought out by an insurance company. How quintessentially Canadian is that?

If Fairfax Financial goes ahead with its $4.7-billion plan to buy the smartphone pioneer, it would be free to retool its broken business model beyond the glare of the public spotlight. Whether it will make any difference is another question entirely.

The tale of BlackBerry’s fall from tech stardom is well known: Apple unveiled its iPhone in 2007, but Research In Motion, as it was then called, failed to respond until it was too late. The misstep was due to a combination of arrogance, strategic miscalculation and the inability to make the tough decisions necessary to stay competitive on the world stage—another unfortunate Canadian trait. Last year’s decision to replace BlackBerry’s underperforming co-CEOs, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, was a prime example of not wanting to rock a badly listing ship. Instead of finding a fresh face with a bold new approach, the board took the half-step of tapping Thorsten Heins, a company insider. BlackBerry experienced a half-turnaround as a result. Heins delivered a new operating system, but failed to whip up consumer excitement, culminating in last week’s $1-billion writedown of unsold phones and plans for 4,500 more job cuts.

If Prem Watsa, the CEO of Fairfax and a noted contrarian investor, is serious about fixing BlackBerry, and not just breaking it up and selling it off, he will need a radical plan that’s so far eluded other potential buyers, from Microsoft to Lenovo. He must also re- energize BlackBerry’s beleaguered brand. Stolid and risk-averse is fine for the insurance business. But it’s the kiss of death in mobile communications.


Fairfax to rescue BlackBerry, eh?

  1. Rock on Blackberry

  2. What is quintessentially Canadian is the media constantly attacking Canadian tech. Apparently we’re never supposed to have anything of our own invention.

    • Ever heard of the concept of “you get what you deserve”? The blame is not on journalists. Their job is to investigate, analyze, report and reflect. If you don’t like their stories, don’t read them. The blame is on the tech companies for their management failures. Don’t shoot the messenger.

      • Might be nice if the media made an effort in this direction…instead we’ve killed off all our innovation and ideas

        Avro Arrow, Telidon, Corel, Cognos, Mitel, Nortel, Radarsat, RIM

        The stem cell is a Canadian discovery….and we discovered that it snows on Mars

        We have the talent here….we have the brains.

        Never hear about it though. Or it gets torn apart.

        We just get oil and beef and shipbuilding…………

  3. Sadly once again we led the pack then snoozed at the switch….no wonder we’re being considered the 51st state by the Asian market….a story often told in this land of over-abundance.

  4. We don’t know it yet. And this is really something bad and maybe Fairfax is really serious about fixing the Canadian Comapny, but one thing sure, it’s not that simple.