It seems new BlackBerry (BBRY) chief executive John Chen can give as good as he gets, adding a breath of fresh air in an era when too many corporate leaders stick to bland talking points.
Chen, who got into a tiff with famously outspoken T-Mobile (TMUS) CEO John Legere last month, was at it again at the Oasis Montgomery conference in Santa Monica, California, on Thursday.
Asked about Apple’s (AAPL) popularity, Chen belittled iPhone users whose batteries run down before the end of the day, forcing them to search for power outlets. “I call you guys wall huggers,” he quipped.
He was also in a joking mood when asked why he left private equity firm Silver Lake to take the difficult turnaround job at BlackBerry. “I wanted to do something where I could wake up every day and worry,” he answered, adding “and I have fulfilled my dream,” as the room burst into laughter
So far, investors seem to be impressed with Chen’s plain talk and fast action. He’s already outsourced handset manufacturing to Foxconn, reducing the risk of getting stuck with unsold inventory, while focusing on enterprise customers and mobile messaging. Shares of BlackBerry have surged more than 50% since Chen took the reins in November.
After Facebook (FB) bought popular messaging app WhatsApp for $19 billion, Chen offered that he’d accept $19 billion for BlackBerry’s 80-milion-user messaging app, too.
The tiff with Legere started after T-Mobile sent its customers who own BlackBerry phones an offer to trade in their devices. Chen took to BlackBerry's official blog to state his outrage.
"What puzzles me more is that T-Mobile did not speak with us before or after they launched this clearly inappropriate and ill-conceived marketing promotion,” he wrote. “I would like to remind you that our long-standing partnership was once productive and profitable for both BlackBerry and T-Mobile. I hope we can find a way forward that allows us to serve our shared customers once again.”
That got Legere counter-punching on Twitter, where he quickly noted Chen was absent.
Later reports indicated that 94% of T-Mobile customers who traded in a BlackBerry opted for another platform.