John S. Chen

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John S. Chen
John Chen at Techonomy 2010.jpg
Chen at Techonomy 2010
Born (1955-07-01) July 1, 1955 (age 61)
British Hong Kong
Citizenship British (by birth)
Alma mater Brown University
California Institute of Technology
Occupation Chairman and CEO BlackBerry Limited
Former Chairman and CEO of Sybase
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Chen (Chéng in Mandarin).

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


A native of Hong Kong, Chen studied at La Salle College in Hong Kong until Form 5 before he went to the United States and graduated from Northfield Mount Hermon School, an elite prep school in Northfield, Massachusetts. He then went on to graduate magna cum laude from Brown University in 1978 with a bachelor of science in electrical engineering. In 1979, he received his MS degree in electrical engineering from the California Institute of Technology.[3]


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.[4]

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.

In 1997 Chen became CEO and president of Sybase, and in November 1998 he added the title of chairman.

Chen developed and led Sybase’s re-invention strategy to evolve what had become a mature slower growth technology company into a $1B+ high-growth innovator. First, Chen returned Sybase to profitability and improved its balance sheet. He then defined and implemented Sybase’s “Unwired Enterprise” strategy to reposition the company, leveraging its database knowledge to create new offerings that addressed the emerging markets for analytics and mobility.[2]

Under Chen’s leadership, Sybase achieved strong financial performance and shareholder returns, including 55 consecutive quarters of profitability, $2.8 billion of cash generated, and a 28 percent compound annual growth rate of its market capitalization from a low of $362 million to $5.8 billion in 2010, when it was acquired by SAP AG.[5]

Board and trustee appointments[edit]

Chen was appointed executive chairman of the board and interim CEO of BlackBerry Ltd in November 2013, responsible for the company's strategic direction, strategic relationships and organizational goals.[6] He was elected a director of the Walt Disney Company in 2004 and of Wells Fargo & Company in 2006. He has also served on the board of the CIT Group Inc., and as a member of the New York Stock Exchange’s listing advisory committee, as well as the boards of several high-tech start-ups, including, Niku Corporation, Wafer Technology and Turbolinux US.

He is also a trustee of Caltech[7] and the Brookings Institution, national trustee of The First Tee,[8] governor of the San Francisco Symphony,[9] past chairman (2009–2011) and longtime member of the Committee of 100[10] and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.[3]

International relations[edit]

Chen is actively involved in international relations. He has testified before Congress on U.S.–China trade relations.[3] U.S. President George W. Bush appointed Chen to serve on the President's Export Council in 2005.[11] In 2006, he was appointed co-chair of the Secure Borders and Open Doors Advisory Committee.[12]

Additionally, Chen chaired the U.S.-China Policy Advisory Roundtable for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).[13]


The Brown University School of Engineering awarded Chen its BEAM (Brown Engineering Alumni Medal) Award in 2003.[14]

In July 2007, Chen was awarded the National Finalist and Award Winner for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award.[15]

Chen holds an honorary professorship from Shanghai University, and honorary doctorates from San Jose State University, City University of Hong Kong, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

In recognition of his leadership in building U.S.-Asia relations, Chen has received awards from the US-Asia Institute (2009), the U.S.-China Policy Foundation, and the California-Asia Business Council (2007). The U.S.-Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation has recognized Chen for his corporate board work.[16]


  1. ^ "BlackBerry sale on hold, but Fairfax to invest". CBC News. 
  2. ^ a b Markoff, John (August 26, 2006). "Sybase Outgrows the Valley". New York Times. 
  3. ^ a b c "Sybase CEO John Chen shares inside look at China's influence". USA Today. November 16, 2009. 
  4. ^ "Globe and Mail". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). February 25, 2014. Retrieved March 24, 2014. 
  5. ^ "John S. Chen bio on Sybase web site" (PDF). Retrieved June 18, 2012. 
  6. ^ "BlackBerry-Fairfax Takover Dies". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). November 4, 2013. Retrieved November 4, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Caltech web site Trustee List page". Retrieved June 18, 2012. 
  8. ^ "The First Tee web site Trustees page". Retrieved June 18, 2012. 
  9. ^ "San Francisco Symphony web site Board of Governors page". Retrieved June 18, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Committee of 100 web site Members Roster". Retrieved June 18, 2012. 
  11. ^ Sybase CEO joins U.S. export group, San Francisco Business Journal, December 6, 2005 
  12. ^ Spaeth, Tony; Tang, Tiffany (November 16, 2009). "Anti-Gravity Man". Power. 
  13. ^ "CSIS web site". Retrieved June 18, 2012. 
  14. ^ "Brown University BEAM Award winners". 
  15. ^ "Sybase Chairman, CEO and President John Chen Named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® 2007 in Northern California." WebWire. N.p., 16 July 2007. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <>.
  16. ^ "John Chen’s influence on Wall Street earnings". StockNewsDesk. September 27, 2014. 

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