Ever since news broke that BlackBerry met with Silver Lake Partners there has been a ton of speculation about BlackBerry going private. With Prem Watsa stepping down from his board position, this has only added fuel to the fire. If you recall, BlackBerry cited potential conflicts of interest between Watsa and the board given the special committee to explore “strategic alternatives”. Watsa is widely believed to be involved in a potential privatization bid.
My initial reaction to a privatization deal is that I don’t see it helping the company much. I thought this is something that should have been done 2 years ago while the company was rebuilding its new OS. I believed that going private now could amount to closing the barn door after the horse has already left the building.
But maybe I was wrong. Maybe it can still make sense to go private
But maybe I was wrong. Maybe it can still make sense to go private. I’ll probably come back to this topic again, but for today I want to focus on one major issue - employee morale. Based on some digging by Kevin, me and others on the CrackBerry team we are acutely aware that employee morale is not at its best for all employees (to be certain, there are also many at BlackBerry as passionate, hopeful and upbeat as ever). Just look at last quarter’s financial results. The actual numbers came in within spitting distance of guidance excluding the (hopefully temporary) Venezuela problems. The stock market’s reaction? Chop 40% off the value of BlackBerry shares.
If you’re an employee inside of BlackBerry, you may not understand that Wall Street reacts swiftly and violently to potential risks and rewards. BlackBerry seemed more risky following the quarter ... no question. But if you work at the company this feels a lot like a kick in the teeth.
Add to this the constant headlines of layoffs, poor market share, lack of apps, poor Z10 sales and more ... you have a recipe for a morale problem, especially when friends and family are reminding those working at BlackBerry of those headlines too. At a time when there's much work to be done, you want employees focused 100% on the job at hand and not distracted by the kind of thoughts that result from these types of headlines.
So while I still believe going private would have been best 2 or even 3 years ago, I realize that hindsight is 20-20. I see less value in a privatization today, but it definitely can’t hurt. And if it can’t hurt, then it can only help. It will help with morale, and it could make it easier for a more thorough restructuring or re-imagination to take place without public scrutiny.
On the latest podcast we talked more about a privatization of BlackBerry, and like I said earlier, this is probably something I’ll come back to again. Drop your comments below and tell us what you think. Or share your thoughts in our Armchair CEO forum section.