Activist RIM investor calls for sale, CEO shake-up

Jaguar Financial, which has acquired about 8 percent of the mobile-phone maker, is calling for sweeping changes at the company.

Investment firm Jaguar Financial, along with a growing number of Research In Motion shareholders, is calling to oust the company's co-CEOs, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, and potentially sell the BlackBerry maker to the highest bidder.

Speaking to Reuters in an interview published today, Jaguar CEO Vic Alboini said about 8 percent of RIM shareholders are in support of his firm's plans to negotiate with the smartphone maker for "changes in governance and the pursuit of a value creation transaction."

Not even the BlackBerry Bold can save RIM, one investor says.
Not even the BlackBerry Bold can save RIM, one investor says. Research In Motion

Lazaridis and Balsillie own about 10 percent of the company, besting Jaguar's supporters. And so far, neither executive has made any indication that he is ready to change RIM's course, as shareholder discontent worsens.

Alboini, along with many of his supporters, says RIM's co-CEO system is failing. He would like to see the board of directors replace the executives with a single, better manager.

But Alboini doesn't necessarily think that will be enough to jump-start RIM's ailing stock price. Expanding more on his desire for so-called value creation, Alboini said he'd like to see RIM sold off or, at the very least, split into separate companies.

"Everybody is in support of a sale of RIM or another value-creative transaction," Alboini told Reuters. "Like splitting the company into separate public companies--a network company, a device company, and a patents company."

Last week, Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Pierre Ferragu wrote in a note to investors that RIM's declining stock price has made it a "bargain" for would-be buyers. However, he said, there doesn't appear to be any companies that would consider acquiring RIM right now.

"On the one hand, we must admit RIM is today a bargain in many respects, and we can imagine new directions to get the company out of its current corner," Ferragu said in the research note. "On the other hand, we don't see any likely buyer out there, and a change in strategy or management is unlikely."

From a buyer's perspective, RIM certainly does seem like a bargain. Since last October, the company's shares are down 50 percent, to $24.10. Even worse, since the beginning of 2011, the company's stock has slid 58 percent. All that has pushed the firm's market cap--a measure of the value of a company--down to $12.68 billion.

So much faith has been lost in RIM that even the company's executives aren't buying shares, according to one report. Last week, Bloomberg reported that none of RIM's "insiders" has bought shares on the open market since July 2010, but they have sold off stock "at least 11 times" during that period, signaling that they, too, might be worried about the company's future.

RIM did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment. As of this writing, the company's shares are trading up 87 cents, to $24.10.

 

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