Struggling smartphone maker BlackBerry has announced that CEO Thorsten Heins is set to resign. Heins will be replaced by John Chen, the former CEO of Sybase. The last six months have brought reports of BlackBerry going private or a sale of the Canadian handset maker to the highest bidder. BlackBerry announced in August that the company was exploring strategic alternatives. Today, BlackBerry announced a new CEO as well as a substantial investment from Fairfax Financial.
BlackBerry this morning announced that its largest shareholder, Fairfax Financial, would invest $1 billion in the company. Among the terms of the deal is that John Chen will be appointed Executive Chair of BlackBerry’s Board of Directors once the transaction is complete. In the same breath, BlackBerry revealed that CEO Thorsten Heins would be stepping down and Chen would take his place in the interim. Chen's role as executive chair will see him assume responsibility for the "strategic direction, strategic relationships and organizational goals of BlackBerry." Arguably a much easier task if he is interim CEO as well as Executive Chair. Thorsten Heins hasn't been CEO of BlackBerry for very long. He was appointed in January of 2012 after co-CEOs and founders Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis stepped down.
Back in August, BlackBerry announced that the company's board had formed a special committee "to explore strategic alternatives to enhance value and increase scale in order to accelerate BlackBerry 10 deployment." The committee was made up of Barbara Stymiest (chairperson at BlackBerry), Thorsten Heins (CEO at BlackBerry), Richard Lynch (BlackBerry board member and former Verizon VP), and Bert Nordberg (board member and former CEO of Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications). The committee will be chaired by Timothy Dattels, a member of BlackBerry's board and a former partner at Goldman Sachs. In this morning's announcement, BlackBerry said that the 'review of strategical alternatives' announced on August 12 had concluded.
The transaction with Fairfax will be subject to approval from Toronto's stock exchange as well as customary conditions.