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RIM investor urges company to consider sale

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Jaguar Financial Corporation CEO Vic Alboini said today in an interview that he is uring BlackBerry maker Research in Motion to form a committee of independent executives to explore selling the company. The public move comes as RIM is seeing its once commanding presence in the smartphone market eroded by the likes of Android and Apple’s iOS: where a year ago RIM accounted for 19 percent of the market, second-quarter figures from Gartner put the company’s current share at 12 percent.

By selling itself off, Alboini said, the company would be able to maximize its value to investors, who have seen the value of their stakes in RIM decline substantially over the last year.

Jaguar Financial Corporation is a Canadian-based merchant bank that focuses on what it believes to be undervalued small-cap companies. CEO Alboini has not disclosed the size of Jaguar’s stake in RIM, but according to Bloomberg claims to represent investors representing less than 5 percent of RIM’s outstanding shares.

It’s unusual for an investor to go public in an effect to take an active role in steering a company’s management; however, it’s not the first time for either Alboini or RIM.

Alboini manages to halt the 2009 acquisition of Lundin Mining Corp by Hudbay Minerals by banding together shareholders to oppose a $670 million takeover offer. Similarly, RIM has been facing shareholder activism itself, with Northwest & Ethical Investments this summer calling for RIM to split its CEO and chairman roles. RIM’s co-CEO’s Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis managed to fight that one off for a while, with RIM forming a committee to study the situation and report back to the board by January 2012.

RIM has been hanging hopes for its future on the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, as well as a new swath of smartphones expected to land in 2012 based on RIM’s recently-acquired QNX operating system—the same OS used in the PlayBook. So far, industry response to the PlayBook has been muted, with many citing its reliance on a BlackBerry handset for email as a major impediment—and U.S. mobile carrier Sprint recently backed out of plans to offer a 4G version of the PlayBook, citing lack of customer interest. And, in a likely sign of sales trouble, Best Buy just slashed $150 off the PlayBook’s retail price, bringing the 16 GB version of the PlayBook down to $450.

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