BlackBerry interim boss in it for the long haul - Fairfax

Reuters

By Laura Noonan

LONDON, Dec 4 (Reuters) - The interim chief executiverecently appointed to revamp mobile phone maker BlackBerry is in it "for the long haul", the company's largestshareholder Prem Watsa told Reuters.

Watsa earlier this year sought partners in a $4.7 billionbid to take BlackBerry private. But his company, FairfaxFinancial, then opted for a lead role in a $1 billionnote offering to provide the Canadian company with money to funda turnaround.

John Chen, a turnaround specialist with Sybase in the late1990s, was brought in as interim CEO.

"John's committed for the long haul, he's an exceptionalleader, he's going to do very well," Watsa told Reuters in atelephone interview from his Toronto office, where he describedBlackBerry as an iconic company that deserves to succeed.

BlackBerry virtually invented the idea of on-the-go email,but lost its stranglehold on the market as rivals brought outmore consumer-friendly devices like Apple's iPhone andphones using Google's Android software.

BlackBerry's struggles before Chen took over on Nov. 25 werewell documented, and analysts had already described the changesChen was making as going beyond what would be expected from aninterim appointment.

"In any of my investments we always look at the leadership,in this case it's John Chen, he's an outstanding leader," Watsasaid, adding that Chen had already made "some very significantchanges" at BlackBerry.

Watsa said the injection of cash from the new note meantBlackBerry was well financed. "It's got lots of cash, it has along runway for John to make sure that the company issuccessful," he said. "We take the long-term view, we don'tworry about quarter by quarter."

"Companies are built over time, they're built by good peopleworking together under the leadership of a very good leader."

The failure to press ahead with the $4.7 billion takeovercould be seen as a black mark on the resume of Watsa, who was onthe right side of the U.S. housing crash in 2007 and 2008 andalso won big in Tokyo's 1990 market collapse.

"You never look back, you deal with the hand that you have,there's no use looking at whether you can get four aces or aflush, you deal with the hand that you have," he said.

"We think BlackBerry is an iconic company, an iconic brand,it's known worldwide ... it's a company that deserves to existand with John Chen it will."

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