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Patrick Spence

DEREK OLIVER/The Canadian Press

Research In Motion Ltd. has lost one of its most promising young executives, Patrick Spence, who was based in London and in charge of the stumbling smartphone giant's global sales strategy.

Mr. Spence, who had been with RIM for 14 years, has departed the company only a few months after the dramatic management shakeup that saw RIM co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie replaced by new chief executive Thorsten Heins. Mr. Spence leaves behind a company that has lost large swathes of market share to Apple Inc. and handset rivals running Google Inc.'s Android operating system – and the exit of such a long-serving veteran at such a crucial juncture will leave a big knowledge gap.

"Patrick will be taking on a leadership position in a different industry," said a RIM spokesperson. "The sales function will report directly into Kristian Tear, our newly appointed [chief operating officer]when he starts this summer. In the interim, the sales function will report to Thorsten Heins."

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A source close to the company aware of Mr. Spence's departure said the executive's last day would be June 15, and that Mr. Spence likely stepped down after not receiving the COO job – despite being pegged for promotion to a C level job.

RIM, as is well known, has struggled through a turbulent year that has seen it lose share and release poorly received products. Its tablet contender to Apple's iPad, the PlayBook, has not sold well and the BlackBerry brand has sunk as consumers view the brand as uncool.

In many emerging markets, however, RIM is seeing huge growth. And it is over this area that Mr. Spence presided before he decided to quit. In recent months, there has been growing concern that these emerging markets are under huge pressure from cheap handset makers running Android.

Mr. Spence's decision to leave now, a source said, "will be a big signal to the [Europe, Middle East, and Asia]region where he had a lot of... influence."

RIM has seen its stock price drop by more than 75 per cent over the past year and is betting a comeback on a new line of BlackBerry 10 smartphones expected for release in either late summer or fall.

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