BlackBerry replaces CFO, others exit, in executive shakeup

Reuters

By Euan Rocha

TORONTO, Nov 25 (Reuters) - BlackBerry Ltd said onMonday that three top executives, including its chief financialofficer, are stepping down as recently appointed Chief ExecutiveJohn Chen embarks on his promised shakeup at the strugglingsmartphone maker.

Chen, brought in as interim CEO earlier this month after thecompany dropped a plan to sell itself, said BlackBerry issetting its marketing sights on corporations, governments andthe big clients that were at the root of its early success.

BlackBerry named James Yersh to replace Brian Bidulka asCFO. Yersh has worked with BlackBerry since 2008, serving as itssenior vice president, controller and head of compliance.Bidulka will stay on through March 1 as special adviser to Chen.

Chief Operating Officer Kristian Tear and Chief MarketingOfficer Frank Boulben are also leaving. Tear played a key rolein BlackBerry's latest restructuring, while Boulben wasinstrumental in the company changing its branding and name toBlackBerry from Research In Motion.

Reinforcing the focus on high-profit business customers thatBlackBerry outlined in September, Chen said he aims to make thecompany a top provider for companies and governments of mobiledevices and device-management tools.

"New interim CEO Chen is not behaving like an interim CEO,in our view, and is dramatically altering the company,"Jefferies analyst Peter Misek wrote in a research note,expressing surprise at how hands-on Chen has been.

BlackBerry named Chen, a turnaround artist with softwaremaker Sybase in the late 1990s, as its interim CEO earlier thismonth as it unexpectedly shelved efforts to sell itself. Itopted instead to raise $1 billion in a convertible notesoffering led by Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd, itslargest shareholder.

BlackBerry did not name replacements for the other twoexecutives exiting the company, but signaled more changes couldbe coming. It said Roger Martin, a board member since 2007, hasalso resigned.

TOUGH COMPETITION

BlackBerry, once a market leader in on-the-go email, hassuffered a drastic loss of market share to Apple Inc's iPhone and devices that are powered by Google Inc's Android software. Its new line of devices has so far failed towin back customers.

Chen told Reuters earlier this month that he would changemanagement, both hiring from outside the company and promotingfrom within.

BlackBerry has laid off thousands of workers over the lasttwo years and reported a loss of nearly $1 billion in thequarter to Aug. 31. In September it said it would shed more thana third of its global workforce to lower expenses, rekindlingfears of the company's demise and sending its shares into atailspin.

Revenues slumped 45 percent from a year earlier to $1.6billion.

BlackBerry shares, which peaked at around $148 in 2008,touched a 10-year year low of $5.98 on the Nasdaq last week. TheNasdaq shares closed up little changed at $6.25 on Monday, whileits Toronto-listed stock was up 1.4 percent at C$6.60.

"John Chen is putting his team and strategy in place, which,unsurprisingly, is largely enterprise-focused," said Wells Fargoanalyst Maynard Um.

BlackBerry's next quarterly results are due on Dec. 20, andanalysts expect the company to report another large loss, giventhe uncertainty caused by its recent sale process.

"We are increasingly concerned that recent headlines havecreated customer angst," Um said. "Though we are believers thatthe company can exist as a smaller entity, it may requirefurther declines in its installed base as well as furtherrestructuring."

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