TORONTO — BlackBerry abandoned its sale process on Monday, and announced it will replace its chief executive.
Fairfax, BlackBerry’s largest shareholder with a 10 percent stake, said it won’t buy the struggling smartphone company and take it private but said it and other investors will inject $1 billion as part of a revised investment proposal.
BlackBerry said CEO Thorsten Heins is stepping down. Heins took over in early 2012 after the company lost billions in market value.
John Chen will serve as interim CEO. Fairfax head Prem Watsa will be appointed to the board.
In morning trading, BlackBerry shares dropped 87 cents, or 11.2 percent, to $6.90.
BlackBerry announced in September that Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. signed a letter of intent that contemplated buying BlackBerry for $9 a share, or $4.7 billion, and taking it private. Fairfax said then it wouldn’t increase its 10 percent stake and the company went about trying to attract other investors.
Watsa said they did due diligence and worked with a consulting company that recommended that taking it private with borrowed money was the way to go.
“To load this company with too much debt was not appropriate,” Watsa said. “We probably could do it, but we decided not to add high yield debt to the company’s structure.”
Watsa said they backed off completely on a leveraged buyout after that getting that recommendation. He said five or six investors had been interested.
Both Watsa said Chen said they will be looking for a CEO with technology background.
“I think Thorsten did a terrific job given the hand he was dealt with,” Watsa said.
BGC analyst Colin Gillis said the failure to complete a successful sale was not an unexpected outcome for the market because the stock was trading well below the possible $9 bid price.
“They never had any money beyond the Fairfax money,” Gillis said. “It’s an under $5 billion market cap company with $2 billion in cash, you put up a $1 billion and you couldn’t get the rest?”
The BlackBerry, pioneered in 1999, had been the dominant smartphone for on-the-go business people and other consumers before Apple debuted the iPhone in 2007 and showed that phones can handle much more than email and phone calls. In the years since, BlackBerry Ltd. been hammered by competition from the iPhone as well as Android-based rivals.
This year’s much-delayed launch of the BlackBerry 10 system and the fancier devices that use it was supposed to rejuvenate the brand and lure customers. It did not work. Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry recently announced 4,500 layoffs, or 40 percent of its global workforce, and reported a quarterly loss of nearly $1 billion.
Although BlackBerry was once Canada’s most valuable company with a market value of $83 billion in June 2008, the stock has plummeted to less than $8 from over $140 a share. That gives it a market value of about $3.5 billion.