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By | Paul Kunert 4th November 2013 17:10

Happiness-challenged BlackBerry dumps CEO, gives up on sale

Last man to get top RIM job departs in a blaze of, well, not glory

Thorsten Heins' brief reign at the top of BlackBerry (BB) all but ended today as the company formerly known as RIM dumped its chief exec and took down the "For Sale" sign outside its HQ.

Heins was plonked into the hot seat in January 2011 replacing joint bosses Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis as sales slumped, but he was unable to steer the good ship BB to calm waters.

The PlayBook tablet debacle cost the firm heavily - he was unable to set sales alight - and the BB 10 was far less loved than had been hoped. All the while the firm was jettisoning staff and recording massive losses.

Something had to give, and back in August BB initiated a biz review. In September Fairfax Financial Holdings led a consortium that offered $4.7bn for the business.

Numerous other firms were reported to have sniffed around, including LG, Google, SAP and Lenovo - but it seems these firms decided not to take things further. Meanwhile Fairfax appeared unable to raise the necessary funds.

Due diligence had been due to complete today but instead, Fairfax, which already owns ten per cent of the ailing phone maker, has agreed to stump up $250m to a fund-raising pot.

The purchasers, Fairfax and other institutional investors will subscribe for $1bn worth of debentures convertible into BB stock at a price of $10 per share - a 28 per cent premium on the closing price last Friday.

If all these debentures are converted the shares would equate to 16 per cent of common shares outstanding.

Heins will "step down" and former Sybase CEO John Chen will serve as interim CEO while the firm seeks a permanent successor.

BB chairman Barbara Stymiest said that the "financing provides an immediate cash injection on terms favourable to BlackBerry, enhancing our substantial cash position".

"I would also like to thank Thorsten for his service to BlackBerry over the past six years. Under his leadership, [we] established a more efficient cost structure, developed new products, saw the adoption of BES 10 and delivered the BlackBerry 10 platform."

Chen described the business as having "enormous potential - but it's going to take time, discipline and tough decisions to reclaim our success". ®

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