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Outgoing BlackBerry CEO promises he’ll be firm’s ‘biggest fan’ in letter to workers

The week got off to a turbulent start for BlackBerry, with the company announcing it had failed to find a buyer and that CEO Thorsten Heins would be leaving his post shortly.

Soon after the news broke, BlackBerry employees received a letter from the outgoing boss in which he wrote that he was leaving “with the confidence of knowing that BlackBerry’s future is in your capable hands.”

He thanked staff at the Waterloo, Ontario-based company for their “loyalty and dedication” during his 22 months as CEO and, as you might expect, reassured them that interim CEO John Chen is the right man to take on the immediate challenge of steering the company to calmer waters, describing him as “a renowned expert in technology and global markets” and highlighting his “experience transforming Sybase from a mature technology company into a high-growth enterprise data management, data warehousing, mobility management and analytics innovator.”

Closing his 438-word missive, Heins thanked staff for “staying focused” and said they could “continue to count me as BlackBerry’s biggest fan. Please know that I will be cheering from the sidelines.”

Heins, who took over at the top in January 2012 following the departure of co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, will reportedly walk away with around $16 million in severance payments and shares. He’s expected to step down some time this month once the billion-dollar strategic investment deal led by Fairfax Financial has been signed and sealed.

The 55-year-old German-born businessman at the start of this year oversaw the delayed launch of the company’s new mobile platform, BlackBerry 10, but phones running the new OS have failed to capture the imagination of consumers in the market for a new smartphone.

The Canadian mobile maker has had a rough time of it in recent years, with its market share obliterated by the likes of Apple’s iPhone and various Android devices.

While the company is promising to stay in the devices business at least for now, many consumers interested in purchasing one of their handsets will be weighing up whether buying into the BB10 platform would be a wise choice.

[Image: Wiki]

Below: The full text of Heins’ letter to BlackBerry employees, via the WSJ.

Dear BlackBerry Team Members,

I am writing to share some important news with you today regarding BlackBerry.

This morning, we announced that we have entered into an agreement to receive a strategic investment of U.S. $1 billion from Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited and other institutional investors, which is a vote of confidence in the future of BlackBerry.

Today’s announcement also marks the conclusion of the review of strategic alternatives process being conducted by the Special Committee. After conducting a thorough review of strategic alternatives, we are pleased to announce this agreement that supports a strong future for BlackBerry. As you will see in the press release we issued this morning, this agreement also comes with some changes to BlackBerry’s Board of Directors and management team, effective upon the closing of the transaction, which is expected to be completed in mid-November.

Today I bid farewell to this great company, but leave with the confidence of knowing that BlackBerry’s future is in your capable hands. Together, we have accomplished a great deal over the past six years, and I thank you for your loyalty and dedication along the way.

John Chen, a renowned expert in technology and global markets, will be appointed to the position of Executive Chair of BlackBerry’s Board of Directors and Interim CEO pending completion of a search for a new Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Chen’s experience transforming Sybase from a mature technology company into a high-growth enterprise data management, data warehousing, mobility management and analytics innovator, as well as his deep roots in the technology industry will be invaluable to BlackBerry’s future. Additionally, Prem Watsa, a long time BlackBerry supporter and one of Canada’s preeminent investors will rejoin the Board as Lead Director.

I’m sure you all have lots of questions about what this means – and that’s why we are hosting a town hall meeting later this week where you will have the opportunity to hear directly from the new leadership.

As always, it is important for BlackBerry to speak with one voice. Should you receive any calls from investors please forward them to Paul Carpino. Media and other outside inquiries should be forwarded to Heidi Davidson.

In terms of next steps, your day-to-day responsibilities will remain the same through this transition. As a team, each and every one of you plays an important role in BlackBerry’s success, so I thank you for staying focused on delivering the high quality products and services that our customers have come to expect from BlackBerry throughout this transition.

You can continue to count me as BlackBerry’s biggest fan. Please know that I will be cheering from the sidelines.

Sincerely,

Thorsten

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