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TheStreet Open House

BlackBerry Ltd Interim CEO Chen In It "For The Long Haul"

BlackBerry Ltd (BBRY) (BB) interim CEO John Chen is in it "for the long haul" according to the struggling company's largest shareholder Prem Watsa, Laura Noonan reports for Reuters. Chen was brought in last month after Watsa's plan to take BlackBerry private fell through, and while he has been hailed as a turnaround specialist for his work at Sybase in the 90s, many people are skeptical that he will have as much success at his new job.

Chen made big changes right away

While Chen was brought in as an interim CEO, he has been making bigger changes than you would normally expect from an interim leader, and Watsa is mostly just confirming what analysts have already realized: the fate of BlackBerry Ltd (BBRY) (BB) is in Chen's hands. Chen has made it clear that BlackBerry will continue selling handsets, but the decision to release BlackBerry Messenger for the iPhone and Android shows that the company is also going to try to capitalize on its popular messaging service. Taking on Twitter with BBM Channels is probably just the first step in that plan.

“Companies are built over time, they’re built by good people working together under the leadership of a very good leader,” said Watsa. “We think BlackBerry Ltd (BBRY) (BB) is an iconic company, an iconic brand, it’s known worldwide … it’s a company that deserves to exist and with John Chen it will.”

Watsa’s connection to BlackBerry a personal one

Watsa has built a strong reputation as a value investor at the helm of Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd OTCMKTS:FRFHF (FFH), and he has made huge profits betting against the market ahead of the 1990 Tokyo market crash and the 2007 US housing crash, and if his bullishness on BlackBerry Ltd (BBRY) (BB) pays off it will show again that he's a better judge of value than the rest of us. If not, people may wonder if Watsa's sentiment got in the way of making tough business decisions.

BlackBerry Ltd (BBRY) (BB) isn't just a Canadian company, it's based in Waterloo where Watsa lives. The company employs people in his hometown and Watsa is friends with the founder Mike Lazaridis. It certainly looks like his effort to revive BlackBerry is a matter of pulling for the home team, and the notion will likely stick if his investment doesn't work out.

-By Michael Ide

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