TORONTO – Five things you should know about John Chen, the new executive chairman of the BlackBerry board and interim chief executive of the Waterloo-based smartphone maker:
— Chen’s led a turnaround before. As chairman and chief executive of Sybase and helped the money-losing software company turn profitable and led its move into business software for mobile devices. Sybase was acquired by SAP in July 2010.
— He’s an engineer by training. An American citizen, he graduated from Brown University in electrical engineering and holds a master’s degree from the California Institute of Technology.
— He’s coming from private equity. Chen, 58, is coming to BlackBerry from Silver Lake, one of the premier technology focussed private equity firms in the world. He joined the firm last year after stepping away from Sybase.
— He’s connected. Chen is a member of the board at U.S. bank Wells Fargo and Walt Disney. He’s also a member of the board of governors at the San Francisco Symphony and the board of trustees at Caltech.
— He knows China. Chen, who was born in Hong Kong, was a member of the President’s Export Council, the U.S. government’s principal advisory group on international trade. He has testified before the U.S. Congress on U.S.–China trade relations and Forbes included him in a list of 25 notable Chinese-Americans.