Activist investor says RIM blocked meeting

TORONTO Tue Oct 18, 2011 5:21pm EDT

Blackberry smartphones are pictured in this illustration photo taken in Berlin October 13, 2011.   REUTERS/Michael Dalder

Blackberry smartphones are pictured in this illustration photo taken in Berlin October 13, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Michael Dalder

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TORONTO (Reuters) - Jaguar Financial, a Research In Motion investor agitating for a shake-up, said two independent RIM directors canceled meetings called this week to discuss complaints about the BlackBerry maker.

Jaguar, a Canadian merchant bank that targets underperforming companies, wants RIM to replace co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie. It has also asked RIM to consider putting itself up for sale, either as a whole or in parts.

Jaguar Chief Executive Vic Alboini said on Tuesday meetings with directors David Kerr and John Richardson were canceled by RIM's counsel.

"This incident clearly demonstrates the control that management has over the independent directors," said Alboini.

But RIM insisted that Richardson had asked the company to cancel the meeting after "consideration of Jaguar's past activities," and after consultation with outside counsel.

"Mr. Richardson does not believe that Jaguar's interests are aligned with RIM's long-term shareholders, and therefore instructed the company to contact Mr. Alboini and decline a meeting at this time," RIM said in a statement.

Jaguar says shareholders representing 8 percent of RIM's stock back its demands, and investment bankers say that figure could grow if RIM fails to address their concerns.

The current co-CEOs have presided over a steady decline in the BlackBerry's share of the smartphone market and have failed to keep pace with innovations by Apple and others, Alboini and other critics say. Balsillie and Lazaridis, who share the role of chairman, exert too much power over the board, they say.

Shares of RIM closed up 3.6 percent at $23.21 in Nasdaq trade on Tuesday, as the BlackBerry maker launched a three-day developers conference in San Francisco.

At the event, RIM said it would soon launch a new operating system to power both its smartphones and the PlayBook tablet computer.

In 2009, Alboini played a crucial role in scuttling HudBay Minerals' friendly takeover of Lundin Mining, successfully appealing the Toronto Stock Exchange's approval of the transaction.

(Reporting by Pav Jordan; Editing by Frank McGurty)

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