The last few weeks of business news has been NonStop GameStop. If by some chance you've been living under a rock or are just waking from a coma, here's a 10-second recap: A bunch of users on a reddit forum called /WallStreetBets banded together to stage an uprising against hedge funds that specialize in placing short bets against struggling companies. Using commission-free apps like Robinhood, the reddit army has stuck a big middle-finger up at short-trading hedge funds who have been picking on a handful of downtrodden companies, the most famous being GameStop. In a matter of days, this army of regular day-traders drove GameStop's stock price up astronomically. The stock, which traded for around $10 a share in December, briefly hit $483 on Thursday, Jan 28. Today a single share of GameStop will cost you $60.
But GameStop wasn't the only company to be blessed by reddit's sudden attention. AMC, National Beverage (maker of La Croix – ticker symbol "FIZZ"), Bed Bath & Beyond, Fossil, Beyond Meat and Blackberry were all sent on insane roller coaster rides in recent weeks.
[I don't own stock in any of these companies and this article is not advising anyone to buy or sell anything, BUT in my opinion the music is going to stop soon and these companies will all see their share prices crash back down to reality.]
One guy who is definitely hoping the music keeps playing and is praying the reddit attention doesn't fade?
Blackberry CEO John Chen
Actually, there's a solid chance that a bunch of people reading this article right now never had a Blackberry.
To these young readers:
The iPhone was invented in 2007. In the decade or so before the iPhone existed, a lot of people had Blackberries. They were especially popular for business people because it was truly the first gadget that made emailing from a phone viable. Here's Andre 3000 holding a Blackberry in 2004 at the 35th Annual NAACP Image Awards:
Here's a photo of me (Brian Warner, creator of CelebrityNetWorth) in June 2008 at a PlayBoy mansion party, 10 drinks deep enjoying an amazing chicken nugget AND realizing that my Blackberry had automatically connected to the mansion wifi network, which was called "Bunnies":
Remember being out in public without a mask?
Remember going to parties?
Man the world has changed a lot. Anyhoo. Back to Blackberry.
The point is, Blackberries were a huge deal for a long time. And therefore, Blackberry the company was as huge deal for a long time.
In 2011, Blackberry, whose corporate name was actually Research In Motion, generated $20 billion in revenue. That translated into $4.7 billion in operating income. A year later Blackberry had a peak 80 million subscribers.
At it's all time high, Blackberry's parent company Research in Motion (ticker symbol "RIM") had a market cap north of $90 billion, which made it the most valuable company in all of Canada, by a kilometer (metric system).
Unfortunately the decade following its 2011 peak has been BRUTAL to RIM, which at some point officially changed its corporate named to BlackBerry Ltd, and its ticker symbol to "BB".
On the day John Chen was named CEO of BlackBerry in November 2013, the stock price was $7. Just a few years earlier it peaked at $144.
Under Chen's guidance, BlackBerry stock hasn't exactly thrived. It's mostly flat-lined at $7, with a few brief spurts to $10.
John Chen's Contract
In March 2018, John Chen signed a contract extension that keeps him as CEO until 2023. The contract allowed John to continue earning his $3 million base salary. It also gave him 5 million shares of BlackBerry that vest over five years (20% vest each year). On the day the contract was signed, the stock was trading at $12.50. So if the share price never budged, they'd ultimately be worth $62.5 million.
But there was a sweetener in the contract.
According to a unique clause in the contract, if BlackBerry stock closes above $30 on ten days during the contract's five years, John Chen gets a $90 million cash bonus. The stock does not have to close above $30 and stay there for 10 consecutive days, it just hast to close above $30 on ten total days. It can do it once next week, another time next week, another time in a year… It just has to end the day above $30 TEN TIMES.
Prior to January 27, BlackBerry stock mostly bounced between $4 and $7 per share.
Here's where it gets interesting:
For a few brief moments on Wednesday, January 27, BlackBerry hit $28 per share. It ultimately closed the day at $25 and closed today at $13. But for those brief moments, John Chen was $2 away from hitting his first of the ten $30 milestones.
But that's not all!
Chen has another sweetener in his contract connected the BlackBerry's 10-day-average share price. According to his contract, Chen can receive up to 5 million shares of BlackBerry if the company's 10-day-average hits $16 and then $20.
BlackBerry stock ended last week at a 10 day average price of $14.
If the reddit army manages to get BlackBerry up above $30, and kept it there for ten days, the following would happen for John Chen:
- $90 million cash bonus
- 5 million share bonus, which at $30 would be worth $150 million
- 5 million stock options would be worth $150 million
Total it all up and you get =
If I were John Chen, I would start to familiarize myself with reddit forums…