Prem Watsa is the chief executive of BlackBerry's biggest shareholder, Fairfax Financial, which is both an insurance holding firm and his own investment vehicle.
With a 10 percent stake in the phone maker, Watsa stepped down from the BlackBerry board on Monday citing a conflict of interest as the company looked to explore its options. This sets up a possible move by him to raise his shareholdings in the company which he had in the past called a "Canadian success story", a good buy, and likely a turnaround story, according to The Times of India.
Watsa, was born in Hyderabad, and is now often dubbed the "Warren Buffett" of Canada, where he's now based, thanks to some of his astute investments including betting on the right side of the U.S. mortgage crisis.
Behind the scenes, there definitely would be a lot of scrutiny and eyes on BlackBerry, for selling off divisions or technology to one or more different companies. The demise of Canada's last telecom giant, Nortel, is still fresh in the minds of many Canadians, especially those who lost pension plans. Watching Nortel being sold off piece by piece at values below what they were asking for did not sit well with many in Canada.
As for BlackBerry, I've always been a strong supporter of their products and services, even though they are now fourth place in terms of smartphones, behind Google Android and Apple iPhone products. There has also been speculation as to whether the Canadian government itself would come to BlackBerry's rescue, essentially bailing them out at the 11th hour.
While there is no official stance on this position, there is one reason why the Canadian government also can't watch BlackBerry simply fade away as Nortel did. The majority of the Canadian government and military officials use BlackBerry products around the world. Losing BlackBerry would essentially cripple their "own" lines of communication. In addition to Canada, other governments also use BlackBerry products and services, and they do would be affected. Finally, there is of course the large subscriber base around the world.
Interestingly, the BlackBerry subscriber base has been increasing in areas such as South and Southeast Asia, and especially Africa. Sure, they've lost customers and subscribers in traditional regions such as North America and Europe, but the subscribers make up for the difference.
Furthermore, BlackBerry has also complied with requests from the Indian government to set up a secure server in Mumbai, in order for Indian intelligence agencies and authorities to monitor and intercept communications. There was a huge uproar about this almost three years ago, but eventually BlackBerry gave in, as the Indian government was threatening to shutdown their services.
With all that BlackBerry has invested in resources, in addition to launching new devices this year, someone will most likely pickup BlackBerry at a fair market value. Perhaps Prem Watsa will be the one.