BlackBerry said to ax dozens of jobs from US sales force

Embattled handset maker cuts as much as half its sales force, according to published reports.

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BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins.
BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins. Sarah Tew/CNET

BlackBerry laid off dozens of people from it US sales force on Monday in another wave of layoffs at the embattled handset maker, according to published reports.

The company laid off more than half its sales force on Monday, a source described as close to the matter told Canadian technology blog Cantech Letter, describing the company's consumer sales force as "gone" and the enterprise as "gutted."

The Wall Street Journal separately reported that several dozen sales employees had been laid off Monday as part of BlackBerry's ongoing restructuring, citing people familiar with the matter.

A company spokesperson confirmed for the Journal that "a small number of employees were laid off today," but did not elaborate. A BlackBerry representative told CNET on Tuesday that it had not laid off half its sale staff but declined discuss the number of job cuts.

Recent layoffs, which come on top of the 5,000 cuts planned during the company's last fiscal year, include the departure of Richard Piasentin, BlackBerry's vice president of sales in the US. The Journal reported in July that the US sales chief was fired in the previous month. The handset maker also laid off 250 workers in July at a Waterloo, Ontario, product-testing facility.

Once a dominant force in the mobile phone market, BlackBerry has been steadily losing subscribers and market share over the past few years. According to IDC, BlackBerry's worldwide smartphone market share in the second quarter was 2.9 percent, compared with 4.9 percent during the same period in 2012.

Last month, the beleaguered handset maker put itself up for sale, announcing it had formed a special committee to explore "strategic alternatives" for itself. While saying it hoped to "enhance value and increase scale in order to accelerate BlackBerry 10 deployment," BlackBerry indicated it was open to everything from joint ventures and partnerships to an outright sale of its operation to another firm.

Updated 9/10 at 2:30 p.m. PT with BlackBerry denial it laid off half of sales staff.