BlackBerry interim boss in it for the long haul - Fairfax

Wed Dec 4, 2013 4:18am EST
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By Laura Noonan

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

Watsa earlier this year sought partners in a $4.7 billion bid to take BlackBerry private. But his company, Fairfax Financial, then opted for a lead role in a $1 billion note offering to provide the Canadian company with money to fund a turnaround.

John Chen, a turnaround specialist with Sybase in the late 1990s, was brought in as interim CEO.

"John's committed for the long haul, he's an exceptional leader, he's going to do very well," Watsa told Reuters in a telephone interview from his Toronto office, where he described BlackBerry 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 out more consumer-friendly devices like Apple's iPhone and phones using Google's Android software.

BlackBerry's struggles before Chen took over on Nov. 25 were well documented, and analysts had already described the changes Chen was making as going beyond what would be expected from an interim appointment.

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

Watsa said the injection of cash from the new note meant BlackBerry was well financed. "It's got lots of cash, it has a long runway for John to make sure that the company is successful," he said. "We take the long-term view, we don't worry about quarter by quarter."   Continued...