Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Balsillie washed hands of stake in BlackBerry

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TORONTO -- Jim Balsillie once remortgaged his house to help build the BlackBerry company, but by the end of last year, the smartphone maker's former co-CEO had cleaned out any shareholder stake he still owned.

A document filed with U.S. regulators shows Balsillie, once the company's third-largest stakeholder, no longer held shares in Research In Motion by Dec. 31 of last year.

Balsillie owned more than 26 million shares of the company at the end of 2011, according to filings obtained through DisclosureNet.com.

The documents don't reveal how much he got for his stock, or when the shares were sold, but it illustrates how quickly Balsillie shed his stake in the company he was leading just months earlier.

The stock had a market value of just under $15 a share at the end of 2011, making Balsillie's personal stake worth nearly $400 million at that time. In January 2012, Balsillie resigned from the co-CEO position, alongside co-founder Mike Lazaridis. While both men took director roles at that time, Balsillie completely exited the company, formerly named Research In Motion, hardly two months later.

The two men pocketed a combined $12 million when they stepped down.

Balsillie joined RIM in the early 1990s when it was a startup company with a mixed bag of sales hits and flops. He invested $250,000 of his own money by remortgaging his house, and within a few years the company launched its first sales success, a clamshell wireless handheld pager that eventually evolved into the BlackBerry.

Balsillie is credited with bringing the BlackBerry into the mainstream. He touted the device on Wall Street and handed it out for free at select technology conferences.

Balsillie is also blamed, in part, for the slow reaction to an onslaught of competitors, in particular Apple's iPhone, and a series of network outages that bruised the company's reputation.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 15, 2013 B8

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