Prem Watsa, The Fairfax Annual Report, And His View Of John Chen

Prem Watsa


Well, it’s been over a year now since Prem Watsa and Fairfax Financial put what is turning out to be an outstanding plan together.

In November of 2013, Prem Watsa arranged to have a rather stunningly talented individual by the name of John Chen take over as Executive Chairman, and soon to be CEO of BlackBerry.


Immediately Mr. Chen started assembling a team of like minded and equally talented business people to spearhead the reboot of an iconic, patent rich company that had just released the most innovative mobile OS the world had ever seen.

Back then, Mr. Watsa had put forth a bid to take BlackBerry private at $9.00 per share. Undaunted when that did not pan out, he set upon the path of raising 1.25 billion in convertible debentures, and got John Chen on board. This turn of events has been looking better and better over the last 12 months indeed.

Let’s take a peek into the Fairfax Financial 2014 annual report to see what Prem Watsa thinks about the plans he put in motion in 2013.

John Chen

Regarding our investment in BlackBerry, it is now a little more than a year since John Chen became Executive Chairman and CEO. Although the company had just lost $1 billion when he joined, he immediately set an objective of cash flow breakeven for fiscal 2015 (ending February), and he achieved that objective by the third quarter.

If you ever wondered about whether Prem Watsa sees BlackBerry as simply an investment whilst wielding a different/inferior mobile device, well here you go…

He (John Chen) has flawlessly introduced two magnificent new products, the Passport, which I use, and the BlackBerry Classic.

Prem Watsa goes on to state a positive commitment to the burgeoning IOT (internet of things) market where BlackBerry/QNX have a huge foothold/dominance in the automotive infotainment systems category.
And Watsa is obviously happy with Mr. Chen so far…

Having achieved cash flow breakeven, John is now focused on building the revenue and profits of BlackBerry organically and through acquisitions and we have no doubt he will be successful. His outstanding 15-year record at Sybase precedes him.

In order to allay any fear for shareholders concerned about an imminent takeover, Mr. Watsa goes on to say…

I have learned that the tech world is very difficult to predict and things change very quickly. Yesterday’s hit can be today’s dog, but with the right leadership, things can also change very quickly for the positive. We continue to be excited to be long term shareholders of BlackBerry and have no intention of supporting a takeover of BlackBerry.

So, what do you think dear reader? Do you take the words of casual, ill informed “journalists”? Do you take the word of click bait, agenda ridden attention seekers?

Or, do you take the words of an established, goal oriented, successful entrepreneur with an extremely solid track record? Oh, BTW one last quote from the Fairfax annual report.

Our results in 2014 were the best in our 29-year history, with record underwriting profit of $552 million(1) and record net earnings of $1.6 billion.

Enough said.


Dave Matthews here. I'm a phone guy by trade supplying VOIP systems for business and industry. BlackBerry devices, playing PRS guitars in my band, golf, and RC flight are my current passions.