Canadian Manufacturing

CEO John Chen out at BlackBerry as company prepares to divide business

The Canadian Press

Manufacturing Technology / IIoT Electronics Blackberry

Chen will depart on November 4

John Chen, Executive Chair and CEO of BlackBerry, will retire from the company effective November 4, 2023. Photo: Blackberry.

WATERLOO, ONT. – After a decade at the helm of BlackBerry Ltd. CEO and executive chairman John Chen will retire from the company at the end of the week.

Chen will depart on Nov. 4, according to a press release after the bell Monday from the Waterloo, Ont.-based technology firm.

Chen joined BlackBerry in November 2013, initially as an interim chief executive, with a mission to restructure the company from a smartphone maker into a cybersecurity software and services firm.

In recent months, he was working on dividing BlackBerry’s cybersecurity operations from its internet of things business, which he planned to take public.

The company also told shareholders in May that it was exploring a range of strategic alternatives to enhance the value they derive from the business, dubbing the review “Project Imperium.” In October, when the company announced the division between cybersecurity and internet of things, Chen said the new proposed structure would increase operational agility for the two business units.

BlackBerry lost US$42 million in the second quarter of its 2024 fiscal year, compared with a loss of US$54 million in the same period last year.

In a letter to BlackBerry employees posted to the company’s website Monday, Chen said he’s saddened to be sharing the news of his retirement “with little notice.”

“However, I felt it was important that I wait for Project Imperium to run its course to avoid disrupting this critical next step for the Company; a company that so many of us have poured our blood, sweat, and tears into,” he wrote.

Chen said he joined the company with three key priorities: to repair BlackBerry’s financial health as it was “just days away from potential bankruptcy”; to establish a new strategy for the company; and to set it up for long-term growth.

“Now that each of these priorities has been achieved, the time seems right for me to leave,” he said.

Before joining BlackBerry, Chen was an electrical engineer who served as CEO of Sybase, a California-based enterprise software company.

“It has been an honour to lead and transform this iconic company over the past decade,” Chen said in a news release announcing his departure. “I’m proud to have been able to establish BlackBerry’s vision of a trusted, software-defined world and to position the company to unlock value through the separation of our core business units into two separate operating companies.”

Chen’s roles will taken up by Richard (Dick) Lynch while BlackBerry completes its search for a permanent chief executive, the company said in the press release.

Lynch joined the board for BlackBerry in 2013, and was previously executive vice-president and chief technology officer of Verizon Communications and Verizon Wireless, according to the press release Monday.

Near the end of the trading day, BlackBerry shares jumped to close higher by 30 cents or roughly six per cent at $5.02 after the Globe and Mail reported on Chen’s departure before markets closed.

– With files from The Associated Press


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