BlackBerry executives picked, plucked and chucked

The ailing smartphone maker has reorganised its top management as part of its rescue plan.

by Gabriella Griffith

Anyone still working for BlackBerry has probably been feeling a tad nervy over the past four or so months – the company has been through the mill; everyone knew job cuts were coming and not just on the factory floor. Chief executive Thorsten Heins was first out the door, now we hear chief financial officer Brian Bidulka, chief operating officer Kristian Tear and chief marketing officer Frank Boulben are following closely behind.
John Chen, the phone maker’s acting chief executive has certainly been, well, acting. BlackBerry’s controller and chief compliance officer James Yersh is replacing Brian Bidulka, the finance chief, but there will be no replacements for the other two – BlackBerry is sacking off chief marketing and chief operating positions completely.
BlackBerry’s position has rapidly deteriorated over the past few years; it went from being the default phone for anyone remotely important, with a market cap of $80bn – to putting itself up for sale with net losses of $965m in the second quarter of 2013. The firm announced its plans to cut 4,500 jobs in September – amounting to 40% of its workforce.
The managerial changes are the first Chen has made since standing in for Heins in mid-November – shortly after BlackBerry abandoned its $4.7bn buyout by Fairfax Financial in favour of a $1bn financing package. Chen is credited with rescuing database company Sybase and setting it up for its sale to SAP – making him a likely character to take on Blackberry’s ‘predicament’.
‘BlackBerry has a strong cash position and continues, by a significant margin, to be the top provider of trusted and secure mobile device management solutions to enterprise customers,’ said Chen. (In more simplified terms - businesses like it.)
‘Building on this core strength, and in conjunction with these management changes, I will continue to align my senior management team and organisational structure, and refine the company’s strategy.’
BlackBerry also announced Roger Martin will leave the board after six years – shrinking the board to seven members.
Rather tellingly, both Tear and Boulben were appointed by Heins and were part of his (failed) master plan to turn the company around – namely the new BlackBerry 10 operating system which was widely criticised.
‘I look forward to working more directly with the talented teams of engineers, and the sales and marketing teams around the world to facilitate the BlackBerry turnaround [new type of pudding?] and to drive innovation,’ added Chen.
Well, with the 60% that’ll be left with a job anyway…

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