Chen Ends BlackBerry Dream Team, Waves Off Bidulka, Boulben, Tear

Former CEO Heins called BlackBerry's five-man leadership team the best in the industry. Under new CEO Chen, only the chief legal officer remains.

BlackBerry interim CEO John Chen is clearing house, as he goes about the business of turning around the ailing mobility company.

Chen announced the departure of several key executives Nov. 25—including Chief Operating Officer Kristian Tear and Chief Marking Officer Frank Boulben—with perhaps a suggestion that they were middlemen, slowing down progress.

"I thank Kristian and Frank for their efforts on behalf of BlackBerry," Chen said in a statement. "I look forward to working more directly with the talented teams of engineers, and the sales and marketing teams around the world to facilitate the BlackBerry turn-around and to drive innovation."

Chen also said goodbye to Chief Financial Officer Brian Bidulka, adding that James Yersh, formerly a senior vice president, controller and head of compliance, will be the new CFO, with Bidulka staying on through the remainder of the financial year to assist with the transition.

BlackBerry will announce the results of its fiscal 2014 third quarter Dec. 20.

Roger Martin, the dean of the University of Toronto and a board member since 2007, is also leaving, said the statement.

"BlackBerry has a strong cash position and continues, by a significant margin, to be the top provider of trusted and secure mobile device management solutions to enterprise customers around the world," Chen said in the statement.

"Building on this core strength, and in conjunction with these management changes," he continued, "I will continue to align my senior management team and organizational structure, and refine the company's strategy to ensure we deliver the best devices, mobile security and device management through BES 10, provide multi-platform messaging solutions with BBM, and expand adoption of QNX embedded systems."

BlackBerry, after announcing it was considering "strategic alternatives" and a few sales deals—the most serious being a $4.7 billion offer from Fairfax Financial Holdings, its largest stakeholder—announced a new plan Nov. 4. It accepted a $1 billion investment from Fairfax and a handful of other investors, in exchange for the option to buy a stake in the company; CEO Thorsten Heins was out; and Chen, who turned around Sybase, was in. Chen is being called an interim CEO, the suggestion being that once he's accomplished what he'd like to, he intends to move on.

"It's going to take time, discipline and tough decisions to reclaim BlackBerry's success, and we are ready for that challenge," Chen said in a Nov. 13 blog post.

Farewell to the BlackBerry Dream Team

Heins was incredibly proud of BlackBerry's executive lineup, and showed them off at the 2013 BlackBerry Live event in Orlando, Fla., May 14.

Heins told the audience during his keynote:

"In one short year, we have brought this company to a profitable quarter. The most successful launch year for BlackBerry is well underway. ... Twelve months ago I stood up here all alone and promised to assemble the strongest leadership team in the mobile business. And I think I can claim and say, 'I kept my promise.' We now have a leadership team that's second to none. ... Frank Boulben, our chief marketing officer, Kristian Tear, our chief operating officer, Steve Zipperstein, our chief legal officer, and the mind watching the money, our Chief Financial Officer Brian Bidulka.

"And remember last year there was a lot of debate about the [global nature] of the team? You have a German CEO, you have a Swedish COO, you have a French CMO, you have a U.S. CLO and you have a Canadian CFO. ... If isn't a true global leadership team, I don't know what is! ... Together as a team, we're all working together to win back BlackBerry's reputation for innovation and execution."