John Chen hires a former Sybase colleague to help revamp BlackBerry

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BlackBerry chief executive John Chen is hiring another executive from the ranks of the previous U.S. technology company that he turned around.

Eric Johnson, who worked with Chen at California-based Sybase, will become BlackBerry’s president of global sales.

Chen has already made dramatic changes to the senior management at BlackBerry (TSX:BB), since he joined the smartphone maker in November as chairman of the board and interim CEO.

He has brought on no less than three other executives who worked with him over his 15 years at Sybase, which Chen led from 1998 until October 2012, two years after its sale to German software giant SAP for US$5.8 billion.

“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 Monday in a release.

Johnson was most recently senior vice-president and general manager for SAP’s global database unit. Before that, he served as SAP’s senior vice-president and general manager of platform and analytics sales for North America.

At Sybase, Johnson held several positions in succession, including senior VP and general manager for North America.

Chen has been credited with helping to grow Sybase into a profitable operation focused on mobile business technology.

At BlackBerry, he has remained steadfast on the smartphone company’s intention to remain a device maker while making it profitable once again.

Last month, he announced a five-year partnership between the Waterloo, Ont.-based company and global manufacturing company Foxconn, which will manufacture new phones for BlackBerry.

Chen said last month he would hire an enterprise sales force that hits the ground running to keep BlackBerry on the radar of its biggest business customers.

A security technology centre in Washington, D.C., that opens this year will be part of those first steps. The centre will place BlackBerry in the backyard of some of its biggest U.S. government and military clients, he said in a recent interview.

Shares of BlackBerry have risen more than 30 per cent since Chen was hired to lead the company.

Chen’s appointment was announced at the same time BlackBerry announced it had stopped looking for buyers and that Fairfax Financial (TSX:FFH) was no longer seeking to take the company private but would remain a significant shareholder and financial backer.

On Monday, the company’s stock was down five per cent, or 49 cents, to $9.07 near midday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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