He may be promoting devices intended to connect people in the most modern ways possible, but when it comes to his customers it’s clear new BlackBerry boss John Chen likes the old fashioned, face to face approach.
“I am living hotel to hotel to hotel, it is like packing and unpacking, packing and unpacking,” he told the Waterloo Record’s Terry Pender. “This week I have been in so many places I don’t even remember.”
Chen, who famously quipped that his chances of turning BlackBerry around are “50/50”, says it’s necessary for him to be in front of his customers because the task of turning around the floundering Waterloo tech giant is immense.
“There are so many things that need to be fixed, kind of in parallel, otherwise it takes too long to fix everything sequentially,” he said.
For the most part, market has cheered Chen’s efforts. Since being named CEO in November, when the stock, on the TSX, had fallen to nearly six dollars, shares of BlackBerry have been consistently higher, peaking at $11.96 in January, around the time Chen said he was removing the “interim” qualifier from his CEO title. He has also earned praise from his peers, including former Apple CEO John Sculley, who told BloomBerg TV, “if anybody has a chance to turnaround BlackBerry, it’s John Chen.”
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Cormark analyst Richard Tse, who has a “Buy” rating and $11.50 one-year target on BlackBerry, says Chen has already fixed a number of problems, including strengthening the company’s balance sheet with the sale of assets, divesting itself of its hardware business and outsourcing its manufacturing, and by putting a renewed focused on the enterprise and software aspects of BlackBerry’s business. But the analyst says Chen may not be looking at the long haul.
“We continue to believe John Chen is taking BlackBerry into the direction for an eventual sale,” said Tse in a recent research update to Cormark clients.
Chen, meanwhile, is striking an increasingly practical tone in the midst of BlackBerry’s multi-billion dollar coin toss.
“There will be one day when the map and the market will tell us which way to go,” he told Pender. “I can assure you, for me, it’s not a religion. It’s business.”