Mike Lazaridis

Here’s something to think about just for fun today. With all the discussion of Prem Watsa potentially being involved with a privatization bid for BlackBerry, could this mean a return of Research In Motion founder and former Co-CEO, Mike Lazaridis?

Watsa’s firm, Fairfax Financial, owns about 10% of the outstanding shares of BlackBerry. Lazaridis owns about 5.7% of the company. So let’s think about this. It’s well known that Watsa and Lazaridis are friends. And we also know that Lazaridis did not sell shares when he stepped down from the board. BlackBerry is his baby. He built it and he doesn’t want to see it die, or sold for parts.

It stands to reason, therefore, that if Watsa is involved in a privatization deal, Lazaridis is probably going to be involved too. He won’t want to sell his shares. Otherwise he’s going to have to completely sever himself from the company just as Balsillie did. I think the former is more likely.

So let’s assume BlackBerry does go private, and that FairFax and Lazaridis are both involved in the privatization deal. Does this mean Lazaridis will return to the board? Or return to an executive position? Perhaps, but it isn’t something we can say with any degree of certainty.

We have to remember that Lazaridis was a supporter of Thorsten Heins. He and Balsillie pushed for Heins to take over as CEO when they stepped down. It seems unlikely that Lazaridis would then lead a movement to reclaim the top job. Instead, I wouldn’t mind seeing Lazaridis return as chief technology officer and overall visionary. I just don’t want him involved in the day to day design of products or features. He’s a brilliant man, but I think he’s also earned a reputation for designing products based on what he sees as useful. He never thought people would want cameras or colour screens or attachment viewing, or touch screens. But put the guy in charge of visionary industry changes in the M2M market or something else truly entrepreneurial and I think you dramatically increase the company’s chances of success in those new areas.

I’m not saying any of this will happen, and I’m not trying to start some kind of rumour that Lazaridis is returning to BlackBerry. But I am saying it’s possible given his relationship with Watsa, his shareholdings, and his likely emotional connection to the company.

What do you think, CrackBerry Nation?  Do you want to see Mike back at the table?