BlackBerry shakes up management, ousts top execs

BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) continued to reconfigure its operations as it tries to revive its business under interim CEO John Chen, and announced the departure of several top executives, including those responsible for the rollout of its BlackBerry 10 platform, which has failed to reignite sales.

BlackBerry said COO Kristian Tear and CMO Frank Boulben are leaving the company. Additionally, CFO Brian Bidulka is leaving and will be replaced by James Yersh, the company said. Yersh, who has worked at BlackBerry since 2008, previously served as senior vice president, controller and as the company's head of compliance. Bidulka will stay on as a special advisor to Chen for the remainder of the company's fiscal year to assist with the transition.

Bidulka had been with BlackBerry since 2005 and served as CFO since late 2009. Tear and Boulben, who each have backgrounds in the wireless industry, were brought into the company in May 2012 by former CEO Thorsten Heins as part of the company's troubled rollout of BlackBerry 10. BlackBerry said it won't have a COO or CMO going forward, according to the Wall Street Journal, which will put even more pressure on Chen.

"I thank Kristian and Frank for their efforts on behalf of BlackBerry. 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 turn-around and to drive innovation," Chen said in a statement. "I also thank Brian for his eight years of dedicated service to BlackBerry. I look forward to working with James and his finance team as we move forward, execute on our plans and deliver long-term value for our shareholders."

Chen, a former CEO of Sybase, took the helm at BlackBerry on Nov. 4 from Heins. The company announced earlier this month it had halted its plans to go private in a $4.7 billion deal led by Fairfax Financial Holdings, its largest shareholder, and will instead receive $1 billion in financing in the form of convertible notes from Fairfax and other investors.

Fairfax CEO Prem Watsa, one of Canada's most wily and contrarian investors, recently told the Globe and Mail that while he recruited Chen he did not ask former Heins to leave.

Chen has acknowledged that BlackBerry faces many challenges, but has also vowed that he would not axe BlackBerry's money-losing handset business. The company recently posted a $965 million quarterly loss, which was primarily due to a $934 million charge it took related to unsold inventory of its Z10 smartphone. BlackBerry has also said it will cut 4,500 jobs, around 40 percent of its workforce.

Chen said in a statement that the company 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.

"Building on this core strength, and in conjunction with these management changes, I will continue to align my senior management team and organizational structure, and refine the company's strategy to ensure we deliver the best devices, mobile security and device management through BES 10, provide multi-platform messaging solutions with BBM, and expand adoption of QNX embedded systems," he said.

BlackBerry also announced that Roger Martin, a board member since 2007, has resigned.

For more:
- see this release
- see this CNET article
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this WSJ  article (sub. req.)

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