BlackBerry's new interim chief executive: An $85 million man

The beleaguered smartphone maker's new chief executive John Chen will receive 13 million shares of restricted BlackBerry stock in efforts to turn the company around.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor
Image: CNET

BlackBerry is really gunning for its new interim chief executive to turn the company around. 

John Chen at today's price is worth about $85 million, thanks to his new pay packet, as recorded in a 6-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, dated early November.

Chen, who replaces outgoing boss Thorsten Heins after the company failed to find a buyer, will receive 13 million shares of restricted BlackBerry stock to be vested over the next five years. In simple terms, he can't touch it just yet. The logic being should the company regain traction in the smartphone space and perform well financially, the company's shares will rise and he will reap the rewards once he cashes in.

Talk about incentives.

He will receive an annual base salary of $1 million, with up to an additional $2 million in performance and bonus pay. 

And should he not work out? If BlackBerry's board fires Chen without cause, he will be entitled to up to $6 million in termination fees. 

Heins, whose final departure is expected in the coming weeks, may receive nothing out of his exit package worth up to $56 million, according to a recent BlackBerry proxy statement. Heins' departure is to be recorded as a resignation. 

BlackBerry is still looking for a permanent chief executive. That said, with Chen's history in turning around enterprise firm Sybase is anything to go by, the chances are Chen will be sticking around for some time. 

Because goodness knows, based on the company's balance sheet alone, BlackBerry needs it.

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