Last night WSJ reporter Will Connors published some BlackBerry scoop about two long standing executives who are leaving the company. The first is Rick Costanzo, the company’s EVP of Global Sales. The second is Chris Wormald, who played an active role in dozens of acquisitions by BlackBerry over the last decade.
What does it mean to have these two executives departing? I’ll share some of my initial thoughts, but keep in mind we will probably know more once new CEO John Chen addresses the investment community later this week. Until then we can at least have fun talking about it.
I’m not particularly surprised by these two departures. Both executives seem to have a history of being effective in their jobs. But BlackBerry is changing (dramatically) and it’s quite likely that Chen wants different skill sets in both roles.
Let’s look at Rick Costanzo, EVP of Global Sales. He has massive history with the company. He’s represented tons of different geographic regions for BlackBerry, being the main connection between the handset maker and carrier. People I know who know Costanzo speak quite highly of him. So why would it be time for Costanzo to leave the company? Chen has, through various comments, made it clear that he sees BlackBerry as a software company. I think it’s arguable that the prior generation of sales professionals at the company grew up with a mindset of selling phones. I think it’s possible that Chen wants born-and-bred software sales executives running the company from now on. That doesn’t mean they’re getting out of hardware by any means … but it would suggest the real value is in software, and Chen wants people who can sell that value.
On the M&A front, Chris Wormald has been helping BlackBerry buy companies for over a decade. He’s also been a key name at BlackBerry when it comes to all sorts of strategic alliances whether it be mapping license deals, voice recognition tools or something else. That said, when the company decided it needed to do something big such as buy QNX Systems, these calls were not made by Wormald, and he may not have been as deeply involved with the enterprise software functionality compared to deals that were device centric or consumer feature centric. So if Chen is pushing hard on the enterprise software angle, it’s quite possible he’d want to see different skills in place.
What I’d like to see is who Chen hires. We can guess all day long about why he’s making certain decisions on staff reductions. But the other half of the picture will be in place once we see the backgrounds of the new people he adds to the company.
Also as a quick side note I know a lot of you have seen the headlines about the Bernstein analyst who forecast BlackBerry to have burned through $800 million in cash this quarter. I’m sure they burned through cash but I think this analyst’s number is too high. I’ll probably dig a bit deeper into this and come back with more. Stay tuned.