BlackBerry CEO John Chen says company's reputation needs help

BlackBerry CEO John Chen says the company’s reputation still needs re-building, but that finances have stabilized since he took the helm 18 months ago.

BlackBerry's reputation hasn't recovered, despite financial gains, says Chen

BlackBerry CEO John Chen was in Waterloo, Ont. for an event hosted by the Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce. (Jane van Koeverden/CBC News)

BlackBerry CEO John Chen says the Waterloo, Ont.-based smartphone maker needs help shedding its image as a troubled company, adding that finances have stabilized since he took charge 18 months ago.

"One of the biggest things that I'm working and struggling with, that everybody here could help with, is our reputation," said Chen to a crowd of 400 people in Kitchener at an event hosted by the Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.

"Not long ago, the company was in deep deep trouble. We are now out of trouble in terms of financial, but we haven't established a growth…until that happens nobody will go willingly buy our products."

In its last quarterly report posted at the end of March, the company surprised with a profit of $28 million US, though it also saw a large drop-off in the actual number of sales. Revenues dropped 33 per cent to $660 million US, compared to the same quarter in the previous year at $976 million US.

Chen, known as a turnaround specialist, was brought in November of 2013, shortly after a buyout with Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. fell through and the company had posted a quarter loss of nearly $1 billion US.

On Tuesday, Chen urged the crowd to promote BlackBerry as much as possible, which he admitted had taken serious blows over the past five years.

"The reason I said everybody could help is, you need to tell people that BlackBerry not only has a strategy, it's no longer a troubled company. The sooner that message gets out and registers, the sooner we'll return to growth," said Chen.

But Chen did not need to try hard to convince the audience, many of whom witnessed the local tech boom led BlackBerry, then known as Research In Motion, back in 1999. Waterloo Region is now home to hundreds of startups that are bolstered by tech incubators and young talent coming out of the region's two universities.

"I think I was aware that that reputation had suffered a lot in the last number of years, but I think with Mr. Chen at the helm that there's a lot of hope," said John Weir from McCarter Grespan Baynon Weir Lawyers, which was the event's platinum sponsor.

"I'm a fan, I'm a big fan of BlackBerry, always have been and continue to be," said Paul Eichinger, chair of the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce board of directors and vice president of MTE Consultants.

"I think John Chen, I believe, told us and showed us how BlackBerry is renewing itself as a company and is well on its way towards success, and if BlackBerry continues on that path and is successful, than this whole region's going to be successful."


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