BlackBerry CEO hires another former colleague to drive turnaround

TORONTO Mon Jan 13, 2014 11:37pm IST

A man walks by a Blackberry sign at the Blackberry campus in Waterloo, September 23, 2013. REUTERS/Mark Blinch/Files

A man walks by a Blackberry sign at the Blackberry campus in Waterloo, September 23, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Mark Blinch/Files

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TORONTO (Reuters) - Struggling smartphone maker BlackBerry Ltd (BB.TO) has hired another of its new chief executive's former colleagues to head its global sales team as part of its latest efforts to engineer a turnaround.

The Canadian company said Eric Johnson will report directly to John Chen, who took over as CEO in early November after BlackBerry scrapped a campaign to sell itself.

Johnson, who will be president of global sales, previously worked in senior executive roles at SAP AG (SAPG.DE) and Sybase. He joins fellow SAP and Sybase alumni now running BlackBerry's acquisitions, marketing, and enterprise sales teams.

Chen rejuvenated Sybase before managing its integration into SAP after a 2010 acquisition.

"The experience that the majority of the new leadership team has in working together previously will drive change within the organization at a faster pace," Chen said in a statement. "I look forward to demonstrating these changes to the market."

Chen, who recently dropped "interim" from his title, took over after the wireless e-mail pioneer lost most of the smartphone market to Apple Inc's (AAPL.O) iPhone and a slew of phones powered by Google Inc's (GOOG.O) Android software.

Last year it recorded dismal sales of new devices and billions of dollars in writedowns, though the stock has crawled up from decade-old lows since Chen took the top job.

BlackBerry has made other personnel changes since Chen's entrance, including hiring a head of its loss-making devices business and replacing its chief financial officer with people from outside Chen's orbit.

BlackBerry has largely retreated from the fiercely competitive consumer phone business. It is setting it sights instead on the corporations, governments and other big clients that were at the root of its early success.

(Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson and Andrew Hay)

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