BlackBerry Ousts Top Execs In Advance Of Major Restructuring Effort


Embattled phone maker BlackBerry is shaking up its executive team once again, ousting Chief Operating Officer Kristian Tear and Chief Marketing Officer Frank Boulben and announcing that James Yersh, former controller and head of compliance, will replace Chief Financial Officer Brian Bidulka.

The move comes just three weeks after CEO Thorsten Heins stepped down, interim CEO and executive chairman John Chen took charge and its largest shareholder Fairfax Financial Holdings invested $1 billion into the company.

"This is a testament to the politicking going on behind the scenes at BlackBerry. They want to free Chen from internal politics, streamline his decision making and let him make changes fast," said Chris Antlitz, an analyst at Technology Business Research.

[Related: BlackBerry: Does John Chen Mean A Software Tack?]

The onetime mobile leader has experienced a downward spiral, complete with dismal earnings, flopped product releases and company-wide layoffs. Earlier this year, BlackBerry reported a near-$1-billion second-quarter loss, forcing it to lay off 40 percent of its worldwide workforce, or 4,500 employees.

The shakeup, BlackBerry representatives told CRN, is in line with a company restructuring set to debut on Dec. 20, which coincides with the company's quarterly earnings.

BlackBerry, in a statement to CRN, said, "BlackBerry remains committed to the relationships with our customers, channel partners and retailers while we continue to explore a range of alternatives that enhance our offerings, restore profitability and build shareholder value. As we work through these changes we will be looking at a structure that will allow us to more quickly identify efficiencies, successes and opportunities for improvement across our business units."

The executive departures, BlackBerry partners say, are a necessary "house cleaning" if BlackBerry has any hopes of a quick recovery. "It's been a year of set and reset and nothing has happened," said David Felton, president of Canaan Technology, a BlackBerry partner in Norwalk, Conn.

In a statement, Chen said BlackBerry's latest executive moves, coupled with its cash, will help the company build on its core strengths. "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," he wrote.

Before joining BlackBerry, Chen spent 15 years as the head of Sybase, where he is credited for turning the company around and leading its expansion into mobile computing and mobile infrastructure solutions before it was acquired by SAP.

BlackBerry said longtime board member Roger Martin has resigned and that former CFO Bidulka would remain at BlackBerry as an advisor to Chen.

PUBLISHED NOV. 25, 2013