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BlackBerry CEO John Chen is a survivor, says Bruce Croxon

John Chen

John Chen
BRUCE CROXON
It’s not hard to pull for a company like BlackBerry (BlackBerry Stock Quote, Chart, News TSX:BB) whose past fame and fortune have all but vanished even as the Canadian tech name keeps plugging away at a now multi-year remodeling job.

And while the salad days of its handset-dominating past are well behind it, investor Bruce Croxon says that you have to hand it to BlackBerry and CEO John Chen for at least keeping the thing still running after practically losing it all.

“An $80-billion company at its height and worth $4.5 billion today —I guess the company should be commended for surviving,” said Croxon of Round 13 Capital, speaking on BNN Bloomberg’s The Disruptors on Wednesday.

“This is a company that led the world in handsets, and if you had’ve said, ‘If that business went away, what would there be?’ There’s still something, there’s a little over $4 billion in value and it has to do with end-to-end security networking. That’s the good news. The bad news is that’s a very competitive space and they’re in tough with a lot of people that do this equally or better,” Croxon said.

BlackBerry made headlines earlier this week through an announcement by China-based TCL Communication that it would no longer be making BlackBerry smartphones as of this August, saying that the company’s rights to design and manufacture the product had expired.

BlackBerry had stopped making its own handsets in 2016 when TCL took up the reins.

And while the iconic BlackBerry keyboard still has its followers, their numbers have dwindled from a market-leading share in the late 2000s to almost nil today.

For a number of years now, BlackBerry has been remaking itself as a software and security specialist, with investments in its QNX connected technology platform and the major purchase last year of cybersecurity business Cylance.
So far, investors have been unimpressed with the results, however, as the stock has been on a downward trend since early 2018, hitting lows late last year that hadn’t been seen since the early days of the collapse of its cellphone business.

But Croxon has praise for the turnaround orchestrated as so far carried out by Chen, who had previous to joining BlackBerry completed a successful resurrection of enterprise software company Sybase.

“You’ve got a brand which people still associate with security — will that brand now extend into cloud computing and being able to at least compete and maintain [their business]? I don’t think they’re ever going back to $80 billion. That would be a big stretch based on the assets that they have now,” said Croxon.

“I think John Chen should be commended for [BlackBerry’s share price] not having gone to zero. If you think about it, you lose your entire business and he’s managed to save from the ashes in a relatively efficient way a $4-billion company,” he said.

“I don’t pretend to know what they have coming down the pipe from an innovation perspective to get that chart up and growing. But the guy has survived, so hat’s off to him for that,” Croxon added.

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About The Author /

Jayson is a writer, researcher and educator with a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Ottawa. His interests range from bioethics and innovations in the health sciences to governance, social justice and the history of ideas.

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