Once a ubiquitous legal industry accessory, the BlackBerry has fallen on hard times. A combination of competition, embarrassing failures, and former managers signaling a lack of confidence has left BlackBerry against the ropes. And building a signature product that forced the user to simulate a sex act didn’t help.
Now, the company is turning to a pair of trusted Biglaw firms to figure out its next move.
But even with superior counseling, has BlackBerry met its Waterloo?
Well, yes it has, though technically the Waterloo, Ontario-based company had always met its Waterloo. Perhaps that was an early ill omen.
Another sign that a company senses its own demise is a desperate name change. BlackBerry changed its name from Research in Motion in January, robbing the world of the genius URL rim.jobs, which was once its job openings site.
However, the name change alone couldn’t stand up to the increased pressure from iPhones and Droids that perform all the tasks of a BlackBerry and more, or the hangover from the embarrassing service disruption in 2011 that spurred a number of BlackBerry clients to pull the trigger and order a move to the competition.
Yesterday, BlackBerry raised a preliminary white flag, announcing the formation of a new committee to begin preparing for a future that could include “possible joint ventures, strategic partnerships or alliances, a sale of the company or other possible transactions.” In other words, “Bye Bye BlackBerry” is very much on their minds, even if it’s buried as a long-shot option for PR purposes. After all, who wants a “strategic alliance” with a company whose founder is busy divesting himself of BlackBerry stock? Indeed, DealBook notes that there isn’t a logical suitor for BlackBerry:
Speculation has circulated for years that large technology companies, notably Microsoft, have looked at BlackBerry and decided to pass. Smaller technology companies based in China undoubtedly covet BlackBerry’s brand and some of its technology, but the government of Canada, where the company is based, has strongly hinted that any such takeover would be banned on national security grounds.
To serve as the company’s
undertakers legal advisors, BlackBerry has turned to Skadden Arps and the Canadian firm of Torys. Per Am Law Daily:
A spokesman for Torys, the Canadian firm that has long advised BlackBerry and earlier this year selected the Z10 as its mobile platform, was unable to provide the names of its lawyers currently advising the company. A Skadden spokeswoman did not respond to similar request by The Am Law Daily. An SEC filing confirmed that both firms have been retained to advise BlackBerry’s special committee.
BlackBerry has also been a longtime client of Skadden, which earlier this year helped the company defeat a securities class action and fend off claims that it misled investors, according to reports by sibling publication The Litigation Daily. Skadden also advised BlackBerry — then known as Research in Motion — on its $200 million acquisition in 2010 of QNS Software Systems, a deal that was supposed to help the acquirer update its operating system.
Neither firm has yet placed this news on their homepage, a sign of how much luster BlackBerry has lost.
Good luck to both firms in navigating the troubled waters ahead. I’d text you encouragement, but like the rest of the world, I don’t use BBM.
Skadden, Torys on Hand as BlackBerry Mulls Sale [Am Law Daily]
BlackBerry Board of Directors Announces Exploration of Strategic Alternatives [BlackBerry]
Once Dominant, BlackBerry Seeks to Avoid Oblivion [DealBook / New York Times]