Blackberry Cleans House as Executive Shuffle Continues

by Jeff Wiener on November 26, 2013

The door hinges on Blackberry’s executive offices are working overtime these days as the leadership shuffle continues at the struggling Canadian company. On Monday the company announced that its chief operating office, Kristian Tear, its chief marketing office, Frank Boulben, and its chief financial officer Brian Bidulka are all leaving the company, although Bidulka will stay on board temporarily in an advisory role to help train his CFO replacement, company controller James Yersh.

The moves come following Blackberry’s failure to close its Fairfax deal (or find any other interested parties), a disappointment that ultimately led to the ousting of company head Thorsten Heins and the appointment of new CEO John Chen.

Lets be brutally honest here, while the outgoing leadership team can’t necessarily be blamed for getting Blackberry into this mess (that happened ages ago), it can be blamed for its inability to help Blackberry recover, and with Chen now tasked with turning Blackberry into something to be proud of, its really no surprise he wants his own team in place to carry out such a Herculean task.

In a statement released Monday, Chen acknowledged the work of the outgoing executives and thanked them for their service to Blackberry, explaining that the dismissals were designed to “align my senior management team and organizational structure.”

Such a shuffle really comes as no surprise, its something we see routinely not only in the business world, but notably in the sports world as well. How often does one see a newly appointed executive of a football, basketball, or hockey team clean house with their advisory leadership and coaches when they take office? The reason behind it is simple: the new leader has a vision and wants their chosen people in place to help it come to fruition.

Now that being said, when Chen has his hand-picked leadership team in place there’s no where else to hide: if Chen is able to turn Blackberry around all the credit will go to him, if he’s not, well with everyone from the old guard gone, there’s simply no one else to blame.

But perhaps that’s exactly what Blackberry needs to find the faint glimmer of hope for recovery: no more excuses. The old Blackberry is dead, and so with it the old Blackberry way of doing things. The connections with the Balsillie/Lazaridis era are done, and the connections with the disappointing Heins era are quickly being severed.

This, my friends, is the Chen era for Blackberry, and while realistically I still have little faith that Blackberry will be able to salvage much of anything, at least the stage is set for something to happen, and so whatever Blackberry turns into—be it a software licensing company, a lower end smartphone brand or what have you—consider this not the faltering steps of a failing company, but the tentative steps of a new company, one that just happens to have a very familiar name.

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