John S. Chen

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John S. Chen
Prime Minister Trudeau, John S. Chen.jpg
Chen in 2019
Born (1955-07-01) July 1, 1955 (age 66)
Alma materCalifornia Institute of Technology (MS)
Brown University (BS)
OccupationExecutive Chairman & CEO of BlackBerry Limited

John S. Chen (Chinese: 程守宗; pinyin: Chéng Shǒuzōng; Jyutping: cing4 sau2 zung1; born July 1, 1955) is a Hong Kong-born American businessman serving as executive chairman and chief executive officer of BlackBerry Ltd.[1] Previously, he served as the chief executive officer and president of Sybase, a software vendor specializing in data management, analytics, and mobility technology.[2]

Chen has also served on the boards of Walt Disney Company[3] and Wells Fargo & Company[4] and was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve on the President's Export Council in 2005.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Hong Kong,[6] Chen traces his ancestral origin to Wuxi, Jiangsu. His family migrated from Shanghai during the Chinese civil war. Chen studied at La Salle College in Hong Kong until Form 5,[citation needed] before going to the United States and graduating from Northfield Mount Hermon School, a preparatory school in Northfield, Massachusetts.[7][8] He went on to graduate from Brown University in 1978 with a B.S., magna cum laude in electrical engineering, and in 1979, with an M.S. in electrical engineering from Caltech.[9][10]


Chen began his career in 1979 as a design engineer with Unisys, where he eventually served as vice president and general manager of, in turn, the Convergent RISC Platform Division and the Convergent UNIX Systems Group. In 1991 he joined Pyramid Technology Corporation as executive vice president. Chen was elected president, chief operating officer and a director of Pyramid in 1993, serving until 1995.[8]

Chen next joined Siemens Nixdorf as a vice president in 1995. He was promoted to president and chief executive officer of Siemens Nixdorf's Open Enterprise Computing Division in 1996.[11]


Chen became CEO of Sybase in 1998.[12] As John Gallant and Eric Knorr noted in IT World, Sybase had been a strong competitor of Oracle, but had become a "dead company" after failing to enter the market for enterprise applications, as Oracle had. Chen and his team proceeded to reinvent Sybase as an "enabler of the 'unwired enterprise'".[12] In so doing, Chen and his team led a re-invention strategy that that led to the turnaround of the company into a profitable mobile device producer,[13] valued at $6 billion in 2010.[12]

Sybase achieved strong financial performance and shareholder returns under Chen's leadership, including 55 consecutive quarters of profitability,[14][15] $2.8 billion of cash generated,[citation needed] and a 28 percent compound annual growth rate of its market capitalization from a low of $362 million to $5.8 billion through 2010.[16][6] Sybase was acquired in 2010 by SAP AG.[13][17]

Blackberry, board and trustee appointments[edit]

Chen was appointed executive chairman of the board and CEO of BlackBerry Ltd in November 2013,[18][13] responsible for the company's strategic direction, strategic relationships and organizational goals.[19] He has been credited with the saving and turnaround of Blackberry.[20]

He served as a director on the board of the Walt Disney Company[3] from 2004 to 2019 and of Wells Fargo & Company from 2006 to 2018,[4][19] and as of September 2016 maintains stock holdings in both companies valued in the single-digit millions of dollars.[21][better source needed]

He has served on the boards of CIT Group and High tech startups such as, Niku Corporation, Wafer Technology, and Turbolinux US.[4][19]

He has also served as a member of the New York Stock Exchange's listing advisory committee.[4][19]

International relations[edit]

Chen is actively involved in international relations. U.S. President George W. Bush appointed Chen to serve on the President's Export Council (in 2005),[5] and as co-chair of the Secure Borders and Open Doors Advisory Committee.[when?][22] He has testified before Congress on U.S.-China trade relations.[when?][9]

Additionally, Chen chaired the U.S.-China Policy Advisory Roundtable for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.[when?][23]

He serves as a trustee of the Brookings Institution,[4] and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).[15]


Chen has been an invited member, since 1997, of the Committee of 100 (C-100) organisation of "Extraordinary Chinese Americans."[24]

The Brown University School of Engineering awarded Chen its Brown Engineering Alumni Medal (BEAM) in 2003.[25]

In July 2007, Sybase announced that Chen, its CEO, had been awarded the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Northern California.[26][27][28]

Chen has also received awards from the US-Asia Institute (2009),[15] the U.S.-China Policy Foundation,[15] and the California-Asia Business Council (2007).[15] In addition, the U.S.-Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation has recognized Chen for his corporate board work.[15][when?]

Chen was awarded an honorary professorship from Shanghai University,[15] and honorary doctorates from San Jose State University,[15] City University of Hong Kong,[15] and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.[15][when?]


John Chen donates to children’s organisations, scholarship funds for those from rural China, and the University of California, Berkeley Chang-Lin Tien Centre.[28]

Personal life[edit]

John Chen married Sherry Hsi Chen and the couple have four children.

As of 2016, Chen was a trustee of Caltech[29] and of the charitable organisation, The First Tee,[30] and a governor of the San Francisco Symphony.[9][31]

Further reading[edit]

  • Silcoff, Sean (February 24, 2014). "Exclusive: John Chen's Simple Plan to Save BlackBerry". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  • StockNewsDesk Staff (September 27, 2014). "Blackberry's New CEO John Chen's Influence on Wall Street Earnings". Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  • Timoteus Elmo, John S. Chen, book on John S. Chen[32]


  1. ^ CBC Staff (November 4, 2013). "BlackBerry Sale on Hold, but Fairfax to Invest". CBC News. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  2. ^ Markoff, John (August 26, 2006). "Sybase Outgrows the Valley". The New York Times. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Sybase Chairman, CEO, And President Chen Elected To Disney Board Of Directors". The Walt Disney Company. 2003-12-02. Retrieved 2021-01-15.
  4. ^ a b c d e
  5. ^ a b SFBT Staff (December 6, 2005). "Sybase CEO Joins U.S. Export Group". San Francisco Business Times. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  6. ^ a b Rocha, Jim Finkle, Euan (2013-11-04). "New BlackBerry boss John Chen out to prove skeptics wrong". Reuters. Retrieved 2021-01-15.
  7. ^ "Who is John S. Chen? Is he the man to save BlackBerry?". 5 November 2013.
  8. ^ a b Elmo, Timoteus (2011). John S. Chen. Loc Publishing. ISBN 978-6138035336.
  9. ^ a b c USA Today Staff (November 16, 2009). "Sybase CEO John Chen Shares Inside Look at China's Influence". USA Today. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  10. ^ "BB.CA Company Profile & Executives - BlackBerry Ltd. - Wall Street Journal". Retrieved 2021-01-15.
  11. ^ "BlackBerry's John Chen: Beating Jobs by Doing the Impossible in Three Years". 26 January 2017. Retrieved 2021-01-15.
  12. ^ a b c Gallant, John; Knorr, Eric (June 3, 2010). "How Sybase Saved Itself and Became Worth $6B". IT World Canada. Retrieved September 29, 2016. When John Chen signed on as CEO of Sybase in 1998, the database software vendor was, in Chen’s own words, "a very, very dead company." Once a strong competitor to Oracle, Sybase had lost its way, in part because it missed the opportunity to enter the enterprise application market Oracle now leads. Over the next decade, through the efforts of Chen and his team, Sybase turned around and reinvented itself as an enabler of the "unwired enterprise."
  13. ^ a b c "BlackBerry sale halted, Thorsten Heins out as CEO | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved 2021-01-15.
  14. ^ "John S. Chen". Techonomy. Retrieved 2021-01-15.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "MEMBERS | Committee 100".
  16. ^ Morgan, Steve. "BlackBerry's Turnaround CEO Dials Up Cybersecurity, And It Answers". Forbes. Retrieved 2021-01-15.
  17. ^ Retrieved 2021-01-15. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ Silcoff, Sean; McNish, Jacquie; and Erman, Boyd (November 4, 2013). "BlackBerry Financing Aims for a New Lease on Life". The Globe and Mail. Ottawa, Toronto. Retrieved September 28, 2013.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  19. ^ a b c d "John Chen (invited)". U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 2018-04-13. Retrieved 2021-01-15.
  20. ^ Dreyfuss, Joel (2019-09-14). "BlackBerry CEO says the mobile company's turnaround has hit a tipping point after near-death experience". CNBC. Retrieved 2021-01-15.
  21. ^ InsiderMole Staff (September 29, 2016). "John S Chen Insider Trading". Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  22. ^ Spaeth, Tony; Tang, Tiffany (November 16, 2009). "Conversations: John Chen, Anti-Gravity Man" (interview). Power. Retrieved September 29, 2016. [Spaeth/Tang:] Let’s talk foreign affairs. You were co-chair of the Secure Borders and Open Doors Advisory Committee and on the President’s Export Council under George W Bush.
  23. ^ CSIS Staff (2016). "U.S.-China Policy Advisory Roundtable". Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  24. ^ Committee of 100 Staff (September 29, 2016). "Members, Member Roster". Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  25. ^ Brown School of Engineering Staff (2003). "BEAM Award Winners". Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  26. ^ WebWire Staff. "Sybase Chairman, CEO and President John Chen Named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® 2007 in Northern California" (press release). Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  27. ^ "John S Chen, Blackberry Ltd: Profile and Biography". Retrieved 2021-01-15.
  28. ^ a b "John S. Chen" (PDF). Chinese American heroes.
  29. ^ Caltech Staff (September 29, 2016). "Leadership & Legacy, Board of Trustees, Trustee List". Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  30. ^ The First Tee Staff (September 29, 2016). "Partners: Trustees". Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  31. ^ SF Symphony Staff (September 29, 2016). "About Us, Board & Staff, Board of Governors". Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  32. ^

External links[edit]