WATERLOO, Ontario – While he mumbled profanities about Samsung and Apple’s iPhone, Thorsten Heins, the CEO of BlackBerry Ltd., was spotted yesterday walking through a neighborhood in Waterloo, the Canadian city where the company is based. According to witnesses, Heins was going door-to-door in a desperate bid to sell the beleaguered telecommunications firm whose smartphones have in recent years plummeted in popularity.
Janet Seals, a doctor who lives near Waterloo’s RIM Park, reported seeing the 55-year-old executive looking disheveled and creeping around — “like a burglar or something” — with a slight limp.
“At first I thought he was [well-known transient] Gentleman Gary, because of his clothes, and he had this sort of crazed look on his face,” Seals said. “But then I thought, ‘no, that’s the rich German guy from BlackBerry, isn’t it?’ It was.”
Seals’ curiosity was piqued, so she grabbed a leash and took her basset hound Chester for a walk: a ploy to follow Heins without arousing his suspicion. Seals remained on his trail long enough to observe him ring the doorbells of about a dozen Chesapeake Drive residents, half of whom opened their doors.
According to Seals, Heins was carrying a stack of papers he told residents were the “titles of ownership” to “a little start-up company called, um, uh BlackBerry or something.” He then offered to sell the company for 500 dollars — or whatever the residents had on them. Seals said she didn’t observe anyone agree to the purchase.
“Then I just left him alone because I felt sad for him,” said Seals, who had a BlackBerry for at least a decade before switching in May to a Samsung Galaxy S4 .
As of Wednesday, no pending sale of the company had been reported and BlackBerry Ltd., which was founded in 1984 as Research in Motion, was still listed on the NASDAQ stock market.
Jeremy Wu, an attorney who earlier this year helped to represent shareholders in a lawsuit against the company, said his clients are fearful that reports about the “crazed and desperate” Heins might cause the company’s share prices to drop even further. The value has already gone down from a high of about $230 in 2007 to Wednesday’s low of near $11.
“[Heins] can’t just sell the company on his own, against the shareholders’ agreement, and without the approval of state regulators,” Wu said. “Still, my clients are very keen to make a steal of a deal for any party who’s interested and has a few thousand dollars they can spare.”