CEO John Chen: ‘BlackBerry Has Enormous Potential,’ Still Plans to Make Smartphones

BlackBerry’s chairman and interim chief executive officer says that he has no intention of shutting down the company’s unprofitable smartphone business.

“I know we have enough ingredients to build a long-term sustainable business,” Chen told Reuters. “I have done this before and seen the same movie before.”

The 58-year-old Chen is an American citizen who graduated from Brown University in electrical engineering and also holds a master’s degree from the California Institute of Technology. He most recently worked at Silver lake, a technology-focused private equity firm. He started there in 2012 after leaving Sybase, where he led a decade-long turnaround for the company, transforming it from a money-losing software firm into a profitable company that was acquired by SAP in the summer of 2010.

“BlackBerry is an iconic brand with enormous potential—but it’s going to take time, discipline and tough decisions to reclaim our success,” says Chen. “I look forward to leading BlackBerry in its turnaround and business model transformation for the benefit of all of its constituencies, including its customers, shareholders and employees.”

The well-connected Chen is also a member of the board at Walt Disney and US bank Wells Fargo, in addition to being a member of the board of governors at the San Francisco Symphony and the board of trustees at Caltech. But a turnaround at BlackBerry will prove more difficult than a turnaround at Sybase. And with the company already having been dragged through the mud since 2008, investors may not have another decade to wait for a Sybase-length resurrection.