Lessons Learned: September

As September draws to a close – and minds wiser than mine contemplate the merger of the Hazelden and Betty Ford clinics — it is worthwhile to step back and reflect on what we learned during the month in the worlds of business, entertainment, sports and politics.

As for me …

  • Walter White and Breaking Bad will be missed but James Spader has arrived just in time with “Red” Reddington on The Blacklist.
  • The new IOS7 look is making us dizzy and spaced out – obviously a subliminal tribute to Steve Jobs.
  • Blackberry?  Well, at least the graduate school classes about huge corporate failures can move beyond the Kodak case.
  • The Seattle of the Seahawks and Russell Wilson is a lot different than the Seattle of The Killing and Linden and Holder.
  • Carrie is self-medicating, Brody is AWOL and Saul is throwing Carrie under the bus.  Welcome back Homeland.
  • Kudos to the Pirates and Indians and to the cities of Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
  • Ted Cruz is so far out there that even John McCain (yes, the John McCain who picked Sarah Palin) found his way back to coherent reasoning for a moment.
  • Brian Williams’ rapid recovery from knee replacement surgery earns him multiple “attaboys.”
  • Starbucks’ “no-guns” position once again demonstrates that Howard Schultz is operating on a different level than most of us.

And finally …

  • Spitzer and Weiner, Weiner and Spitzer (doesn’t read well either way) – please run for some other office.   We need you.





BlackBerry Commentary: Interpretation Not Required

The commentary accompanying Monday’s announcement of the Fairfax-BlackBerry letter of intent was painfully straightforward … and painted a vivid picture – even during the upcoming “go-shop” period – of just how difficult a path awaits the company.

Brian Colello, an analyst with Morningstar, told the New York Times, for instance, that other buyers — if there are any — are unlikely to be interested in BlackBerry’s phone business.

 “There is no value for the BlackBerry 10 ecosystem,” he said. “The value of this company is cash and patents.”

Colello elaborated in a conversation with USA Today and said BlackBerry’s cash and patents represents value of $2.6 billion, but that “I don’t see any way one could assign ongoing value.”

Jan Dawson, a telecommunications analyst with Ovum, was equally bleak in the Times in laying out BlackBerry’s alternatives. “Last week was essentially an announcement that they are leaving the handset business,” Dawson said.  “But pick any market they’re trying to go into and there are strong, entrenched competitors.”

The Washington Post coverage included an opinion by Anthony Michael Sabino, a business professor at St. John’s University, who said “this is BlackBerry’s last ditch attempt to simply survive in the face of crushing competition in a market it essentially invented.”

Equally harsh was the comment made in the Journal by Manish Kapoor, chief information officer of NuStar Energy Corp., who stated that the potential deal won’t help the company come up with a solution because its dilemma is one in which the only solution is part of the problem. “BlackBerry said that they want to go back to the corporate market, not realizing that it was not the corporate (customer) but the consumer on the street (who happens to also work in the corporate world) that made them go out of business,” Kapoor said in an email.  He added that only 60 out of 1,400 devices at NuStar are BlackBerry devices.

Finally, there was Prem Watsa, the chairman and chief executive office of Fairfax, who – uncharacteristic of company leaders in times such as this – was a bit over the top in responding to a reporter’s question.

“I know most people don’t think so, but we think over time [BlackBerry] can be successful again,” Watsa said in an interview.

The second part of his response clearly was part of the script.  But an incredibly honest introductory clause also found its way into his answer.