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RIM’s Head of Global Sales Quits BlackBerry Maker

Research In Motion Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Thorsten Heins
Research In Motion Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Thorsten Heins is grappling with a sales slump and declining stock price, making it harder to attract and retain talent. Photographer: Peter Foley/Bloomberg

Research In Motion Ltd.’s Patrick Spence resigned as head of global sales, marking the latest management change for the struggling maker of BlackBerry smartphones.

Spence is taking a job in a different industry following 14 years at RIM, said Rebecca Freiburger, a spokeswoman for the Waterloo, Ontario-based company. The sales team will report to Kristian Tear, RIM’s new operating chief, who will start this summer, Freiburger said in an e-mail. Until then, the division will report directly to Chief Executive Officer Thorsten Heins.

Heins, who took over in January, is grappling with a sales slump and declining stock price, making it harder to attract and retain talent. As part of his turnaround effort, he named Tear, a former Sony Corp. executive, to the operating job earlier this month. Heins also brought in an ex-LightSquared Inc. manager, Frank Boulben, as head of marketing.

“The only thing that is saving them at the moment is international growth,” said Sameet Kanade, an analyst at Northern Securities Inc. in Toronto who recommends selling RIM shares. “If your main guy responsible for international traction leaves, it’s a steep learning curve for the new guys. This is pretty odd timing.”

RIM’s stock rose fell 3.4 percent to $10.71 at the close in New York. The shares have lost three-quarters of their value over the past year.

BlackBerry 10

The company is banking on the new BlackBerry 10 operating system to resurrect its smartphone lineup, which has lost market share to Apple Inc.’s iPhone and Google Inc.’s Android. RIM’s sales tumbled 25 percent last quarter, with U.S. revenue plummeting more than 50 percent.

RIM’s share of U.S. smartphone subscribers shrank to 12 percent in the period, making it a distant third in the industry, according to ComScore Inc. Android accounted for 51 percent of the market, while the iPhone had 31 percent.

Prior to his departure, Spence was working on opening BlackBerry stores in markets such as Southeast Asia and the Middle East, where sales have held up better -- part of a bid to mimic the success of Apple’s retail strategy.

“We’re being very focused in terms of the countries and cities we’re doing it in, based on where the brand is and what we think we need to do,” he said in an interview last month.

Spence said the company has to step up its game in North America with BlackBerry 10 and deliver a product that can compete with the iPhone.

“We’ve got to make sure we deliver more than we have in the past,” he said.

The Wall Street Journal previously reported Spence’s departure.

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