BlackBerry is not for sale: John Chen

The CEO of BlackBerry, regarded by many as a 'turnaround artist,' says he won't sell the company until the shareholder has good value reflecting truly what BlackBerry is worth.

CEO says while BlackBerry is focused on software, he doesn't want to exit the handset business

BlackBerry not for sale, says John Chen

7 years ago
Duration 1:08
CEO says he won't sell company until shareholders get good value reflecting what BlackBerry is truly worth

The CEO of BlackBerry says the company is not for sale — at least for now.

"I don't have any intention to sell BlackBerry," said John Chen in an interview on CBC's The Exchange with Amanda Lang. "Not until the BlackBerry shareholder has good value reflecting truly what we have."

These days, BlackBerry's stock is hovering just below $10 a share. That's a sliver compared to its heydays of 2008 when it was known as Research in Motion and traded as high as $140 a share. 

But with the introduction of Apple's iPhone, and BlackBerry's failed attempts to match it, the company fell from grace. Enter John Chen two years ago, a 60-year-old Hong Kong native who left retirement to pick up the pieces and steer the company back to its former glory.

Should he succeed, then maybe a sale will be in the cards.

"Then, if there is a potential proper suitor that would take care of our customers... I have a fiduciary responsibility to listen. But until then, there's not point in listening."

Halfway there

Chen says BlackBerry is now about halfway through the turnaround process.

"I think we're now going into the second phase," said Chen. "[BlackBerry's] claim to fame ... is in security and privacy. Last quarter, we won 2,600 either new or renewed customers for our software servers. 2,600 in one quarter. And a lot of them are very big names."

In other words, BlackBerry is more of a software company today than it is a smartphone company.

Still, Chen doesn't have any plans to exit the hardware business completely. He says his reasoning for that risky decision is both practical and emotional.

"We make the most secure handset. Everybody, all of our competitors, will give that to us. Governments around the world are still using BlackBerry handsets," said Chen. "The emotional reason is, BlackBerry is iconic to the industry. We started this industry arguably."

BlackBerry's latest earnings paint a picture of a company committed to becoming a leader in software.

In the first quarter. software sales grew more than 150 per cent from a year earlier to $137 million — about a fifth of total revenue. That may make Chen's goal of $500 million for software sales this fiscal year a feasible one. 

The numbers which hurt the stock price the most were the sagging smartphone sales. BlackBerry sold 1.1 million devices in the January to March period, compared to 2.6 million in the same period last year. 

In the interview, Chen also talks about his greatest competition, Apple, and how he feels about being constantly compared to the tech behemoth. He also explains why he emerged from retirement to take on such a difficult and daunting task of turning BlackBerry around.


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