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Former Apple CEO Sculley mulls BlackBerry bid

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

John Sculley, the former Apple Inc. CEO who famously clashed with Steve Jobs, is exploring a bid for beleaguered BlackBerry Ltd. with Canadian partners, sources have told The Globe and Mail.

Mr. Sculley said he could not comment on the matter, but noted "I've been a long-time BlackBerry fan and user."

Various suitors have emerged for the company. Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. chief Prem Watsa launched a preliminary offer to buy the BlackBerry maker for $4.7-billion (U.S.). BlackBerry co-founders Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin revealed in a regulatory filing that they are also considering a run for the company. Other companies, from technology companies to private equity firms, have also looked into the possibility of buying BlackBerry, which still has a valuable cache of intellectual property, according to various reports.

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The Waterloo, Ont.-based tech company has withered as sales plummeted in recent years. Apple's iPhone and devices running Google Inc.'s Android software have stolen vast amounts of market share away from BlackBerry, which was once the dominant smartphone player. The Canadian company's newest BlackBerry 10 devices have failed to sell in great enough numbers to fuel a comeback, leading the firm's executives to explore various strategies, including a sale.

But the appearance of Mr. Sculley, who also ran PepsiCo Inc. and was behind the "Pepsi Challenge" campaign that challenged drinkers of Coca-Cola, brings another high-profile executive into the mix. A BlackBerry spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday evening.

In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Sculley said whoever takes over BlackBerry maker needs to have the management experience if they are to have any sort of success turning the company around.

"The only thing I would say is, I think there's a lot of future value in Blackberry," Mr. Sculley said, "but without experienced people who have run this type of business, and without a strategic plan, it would be really challenging ... Whoever buys it would have to have a strategic plan that was credible and could succeed, and they would want to have an experienced team that would be able to implement that plan."

At Apple in the 1980s, Mr. Sculley presided over huge growth after being hired away from PepsiCo. That period in Apple's history, however, is more well known for Mr. Sculley's clashes with Mr. Jobs. The board fired Mr. Jobs after severe disagreements on the company's strategy. The famed executive later returned to the company, launched the iPod, various successful Mac computers, and the iPhone – which revolutionized the smartphone industry and made Apple one of the most valuable companies in the world.

"He was not a great executive back in those early days," Mr. Sculley said at a recent conference in Bali, Indonesia. "The great Steve Jobs that we know today, as maybe the world's greatest CEO, certainly of our era, he learned a lot in those years in the wilderness."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More


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