What happens if your market share drops from 41% to 2.9% in six years?

You get bought out by your largest shareholder for a tenth of your previous value.

That's what's just happened to troubled smartphone maker BlackBerry, which has announced it will be sold to a consortium led by its largest shareholder for $4.7 billion.

The Canadian firm, which had its European headquarters in Slough, Berkshire, said it had signed a letter of intent agreement with Fairfax Financial over a $9 per share cash deal.

It comes days after BlackBerry, one of the pioneers of the smartphone industry, revealed it expected to make a loss of a billion dollars (£606 million) after disastrous sales of its new handsets, and would lay off 4,500 staff.

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  • RIM Inter@ctive Pager 950 (1998)

    The RIM Inter@ctive Pager 950 was one of the first true BlackBerry devices. Released in 1998 it looks more like a large pager - because that's exactly what it was. But it could also handle messages up to 16,000 characters, and came with an Intel 386 processor - which was pretty good at the time. Oh, and it ran for almost a month on a single AA battery. Take that, iPhone. It cost $350 at launch.

  • RIM 957 Wireless Handheld (2000)

    The RIM 957 Wireless Handheld was introduced in April 2000, and was described as a "breakthrough palm sized wireless handheld". It gave users access to the Internet, email, pager and organiser functions, with a 32 bit Intel 386 processor and 5MB of flash memory. It was the first device to offer 'always on" performance, and sold for about $500.

  • BlackBerry 5810 (2002)

    The first true 'BlackBerry' was the 5810 - and it was also the first to include Voice Calls. That's right - the earlier devices weren't even phones, making this the first truly integrated phone-organiser-email-thingy. It was expensive - $749 - but could do just about most of the same things a basic smartphone can do today.

  • Blackberry 7230

    One of the most famous - even iconic - BlackBerry devices ever was the classic blue Blackberry 7230, which came with a 65k colour screen instead of the old monochrome versi0on, as well as 16MB of storage and a battery with up to 240 hours of stand-by. It sold for about $400 at the time, and featured a full QWERTY keyboard.

  • 'SureType' BlackBerry

    The BlackBerry 7100 series featured the company's first models without a full keyboard, instead opting for the T9 'SureType' system familiar from other mobiles. The phones were popular with the mass-market as they looked and were sized similar to normal phones,. They were marketed to consumers for about $200.

  • BlackBerry 8700 (2005)

    The BlackBerry 8700 was the first of its handhelds to use high-speed internet via EDGE. It offered much faster browsing and came with a QVGA 320 by 240-pixels screen, as well as Bluetooth support and 64mb of Flash memory.

  • BlackBerry Pearl (2006)

    The Pearl was at the time the smallest BlackBerry ever released. It weighed just over 3 pounds and cost just $200 with a two-year contract. It was the first BlackBerry to come with a camera and a microSD slot.

  • BlackBerry Curve (2007)

    The BlackBerry Curve 8300 came with a camera, a 3.5 headphone jack and a full QWERTY keyboard. It was pretty cheap - $200 on contract - but looked more like a high-end professional device.

  • BlackBerry Bold (2008)

    The BlackBerry Bold is in some ways the ultimate BlackBerry - sleek, dark, with a full QWERTY keyboard and support for 3G networks, 1GB of memory and a higher-resolution display, it pretty much opitimises what the BlackBerry was all about.

  • BlackBerry Storm (2008)

    The Storm was BlackBerry's first phone without a keyboard, and it launched to mixed reviews. It was clear that RIM's software wasn't able to keep up with the current crop of devices, and that BlackBerry needed a relaunch. That wouldn't happen until 2013.

  • BlackBerry Torch (2010)

    The BlackBerry torch was pitched as the first "elite" consumer offering from RIM. It's slider form factor, full keyboard and touchscreen placed it as the mid point between and iPhone and an old school Blackberry, but for reviewers it wasn't able to do either job well and it failed to gain much attention.


Canadian billionaire investor Prem Watsa, Fairfax's chairman and chief executive, said: "We believe this transaction will open an exciting new private chapter for BlackBerry, its customers, carriers and employees.

"We can deliver immediate value to shareholders, while we continue the execution of a long-term strategy in a private company with a focus on delivering superior and secure enterprise solutions to BlackBerry customers around the world."

Sales of shares in the Nasdaq-listed company, which plunged after Friday's announcement, were halted after the news of the deal which would take it private.

BlackBerry, which started in 1999, is known for the loyalty of its users, who include Barack Obama.

It carried out a high profile launch of two new handsets at the start of the year, the much delayed Z10 touchscreen and Q10 with a qwerty keyboard, which went on sale later in the year.

A new phone, the touchscreen Z30, was unveiled last week.

They were designed to see it catch up with Apple, Samsung and other smartphone makers after falling behind in terms of new technology after the launch of the iPhone in 2007.

But the new handsets failed to win over critics and sales were far below what the firm was hoping for.

Its market share in the first quarter of this year was 2.9%, according to analysts, compared to 41% in 2007.

BlackBerry said it had set up a special committee in August to look at the financial alternatives for the company in the face of its poor trading figures.

The agreement with Fairfax allows it to "go shop" for alternative offers for the firm should they become available during the due diligence process, which is expected to take until November 4.

Chairwoman Barbara Stymiest said: "The special committee is seeking the best available outcome for the Company's constituents, including for shareholders.

Importantly, the go-shop process provides an opportunity to determine if there are alternatives superior to the present proposal from the Fairfax consortium."