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A Blackberry smartphone is displayed in this August 12, 2010 illustrative photo taken in Hong Kong. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

BlackBerry calls off sale, will replace CEO

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(Reuters) - BlackBerry Ltd is abandoning a plan to sell itself and instead will replace its chief executive officer and raise about $1 billion from institutional investors, including its largest shareholder, the smartphone maker said on Monday.

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Shares of BlackBerry dropped 16.3 percent to $6.50 in premarket trading. The company said it would raise the money with a private placement of convertible debentures.

John Chen will be appointed executive chairman and will be interim CEO while the company looks for a new leader. He is the former CEO of Sybase, a database software company that SAP AG acquired in 2010.

Chen joined private equity group Silver Lake as senior adviser last year.

BlackBerry grew from a small technology startup into a multibillion-dollar company by pioneering on-the-go email, but it has lost much of its market share to Apple Inc's iPhone and devices that run Google Inc's Android software.

BlackBerry's largest shareholder, Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd, will buy $250 million of the debentures. BlackBerry said the subordinated debentures would be convertible into common shares at $10 and have a seven-year term.

Fairfax announced a tentative $9-a-share offer for Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry in late September. But Reuters said on Friday that Fairfax was struggling to finance the $4.7 billion bid.

(Reporting by Allison Martell and Euan Rocha; Editing by Janet Guttsman, Gerald E. McCormick and Lisa Von Ahn)

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