It's hunting season for Openwave (NASDAQ:OPWV). The cell-phone software specialist is hiring Merrill Lynch (NYSE:MER) to seek out "strategic alternatives" -- corporatespeak for "please buy me" -- in hopes of ending its shareholders' misery.

Openwave's luck has been running dry since it became one of several dozen companies snagged in the stock-option backdating epidemic. Financial restatements, class action lawsuits, and a flurry of executive resignations have followed. It doesn't help that profits have turned to losses, and sales have been shrinking.

In the corporate equivalent of a hockey team taking out the goalie for a last-ditch attempt at scoring, Openwave is leaving an open net by also announcing the resignation of its CEO. A seasoned executive who cut his teeth at Lucent will be taking over the helm, but that'll likely only be temporary, until a buyer steps in for the easy score.

Who will buy it? The company has an impressive client list. It would be easy to see Motorola (NYSE:MOT), Cingular, or Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) want in, though being snapped up by one may endanger Openwave's business relationship with the others. A platform partner like Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) may make more sense, though the company's dirty laundry and cheap price may make it more attractive to a private equity firm that can clean the sheets without public scrutiny.

It's a shame to see Openwave sell out. Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommended it in fall 2005, as the company's open-standard software grew increasingly popular in wireless handsets, wireline carriers, broadband, and even instant messaging. Alas, the company's shares have fallen 50% since. That's the price you pay for swinging for the fences with growth stocks: You're going to strike out now and then.

Openwave continues to strike deals, roll out innovative offerings, and even repurchase shares, but it's time to give someone else a swing at the plate. Better luck in better hands, Openwave.

Despite Openwave's tumble, Motley Fool Rule Breakers ' stable of picks is still beating the market on average. If you want to read more about the Openwave decision -- and the rest of the growth stocks on the scorecard -- a 30-day free trial may be right for you.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz doesn't carry a hunting license for Openwave hunting season. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.