BlackBerry Extends John Chen’s Contract With $130m Sweetener

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Nice little earner. Five year extension as CEO in return for compensation valued at close to $130 million

BlackBerry’s directors have looked to hold onto the services of CEO and executive chair of the company, John Chen.

Chen has now been in charge of BlackBerry for five years now, and the board of directors have extended his contract for another five years through to 2023.

It is fair to say that BlackBerry was a company in serious trouble when John Chen took over back in November 2013. Mobile rivals such as Microsoft Windows Phone were on a terminal decline but he managed to keep the Canadian giant operating despite question marks over its future survival.

Nice package

And it is clear that BlackBerry’s directors remain pleased at Chen’s performance so far in charge of the Canadian company.

“The BlackBerry Board of Directors has tremendous confidence in John Chen,” Prem Watsa, lead director and chair of compensation on the BlackBerry board said in a statement.

“John engineered a successful turnaround and has the company repositioned to apply its strengths and assets to the Enterprise of Things, an emerging category with massive potential,” said Watsa. “John’s leadership is critical and the Board has determined that it is in the best of interests of BlackBerry and its shareholders to continue his service through November 2023.”

BlackBerry said that since becoming CEO, Chen had led BlackBerry through an “historic turnaround that has seen the iconic company shed its hardware manufacturing business, return to financial stability, and make strategic investments in cybersecurity and embedded software that today are delivering the vast majority of the company’s revenue and growth.”

Under his contract, Chen will retain his annual $3m salary plus bonuses, which adds up to a total of $15m a year.

On top of this, Chen will receive 5 million restricted stock units that vest 20 percent per year and another 5 million units that will vest if BlackBerry’s stock price reaches $16 to $20.

The 10 million units are worth $132m at Thursday’s midday price, but could reach even more if BlackBerry’s stock price keeps rising (it has risen more than 84 percent in the past year).

Chen will also get an additional cash award of an undisclosed amount if BlackBerry’s stock hits $30.

Company transformation

Over the past few years, BlackBerry has benefited from its retreat from being a smartphone only firm, and instead turned its attention to software, security and automotive systems for cars.

That said, Blackberry does of course maintain a very modest Android-based smartphone portfolio.

Its main attention lies elsewhere now. It has previously teamed up with automotive technology company Delphi to create an operating system for autonomous driving platforms for use in driverless cars.

And BlackBerry is also back in the black as it posted (last year) a modest profit thanks to strong enterprise software sales.

Quiz: Are you a BlackBerry master?

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