BUSINESS

Thorsten Heins, Ex-BlackBerry CEO, To Make Millions On Exit

11/05/2013 07:38 EST
CP

He spent 22 months at the helm of BlackBerry, during which time he presided over disastrous earnings reports, an underwhelming product launch, and an unsuccessful campaign to find a new owner for the company.

But Thorsten Heins, who lost his job as CEO of BlackBerry on Monday, could walk away with as much as $22 million in compensation all the same. That would be a million dollars a month for his time as chief executive.

And that’s on top of the $3 million annual salary he’s drawing.

According to BlackBerry’s 2013 proxy circular, Heins stands to earn an estimated $22-million golden handshake if he loses his job. The actual amount depends on BlackBerry share prices, which have fallen since the estimates listed in the company’s statement were made at the beginning of March.

Heins and other top execs at BlackBerry would have made much more if they had successfully found a new owner for the company.

If that had happened, Heins would have walked with an estimated $55.6 million, but again, those numbers were based on a higher stock price than BlackBerry currently enjoys.

Concordia University business professor Michel Magnan told the Globe and Mail it’s unusual to offer compensation packages that large for CEOs who were recruited internally.

Sometimes you have to offer all kinds of sweeteners to attract somebody from outside to become CEO when the company is in trouble, but he was recruited from inside,” Magnan said, adding that the golden handshake amounts to “payment for failure.”

BlackBerry announced on Monday it’s giving up on finding a buyer for the struggling smartphone maker. Fairfax Financial Holdings had made a conditional offer of $4.7 billion for BlackBerry in September, but then struggled to find financing for the venture.

Instead, Fairfax Financial will help BlackBerry to raise money by buying a large part of a $1-billion bond issue the company announced. BlackBerry also announced Heins will be stepping down, to be replaced in the interim with John Chen, former CEO of Sybase and an executive known for turning struggling companies around.

BlackBerry’s latest earnings report, for the second quarter, showed the company losing nearly $1 billion. The news was followed quickly with an announcement it plans to cut 40 per cent of its staff.

Those layoffs have already begun, with BlackBerry announcing hundreds of job cuts at its head offices in Waterloo, Ont.