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BlackBerry officially drops RIM and chops US sales chief

BlackBerry's US sales chief parted ways with the company last month, the Canadian smartphone maker has confirmed.

A BlackBerry spokesperson would not provide details about how former vice president Richard Piasentin left the company. But The Wall Street Journal reported this week that he was fired in June as part of an ongoing restructuring plan that included layoffs "across middle management in the sales and support divisions."

"I can confirm that as of last month, Richard Piasentin is no longer with BlackBerry. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors," the spokesperson said.

Beleaguered BlackBerry has endured slipping smartphone market share and a crisis of investor confidence in recent years, as Apple's iPhones and devices running Google's Android mobile operating system have come to dominate the market. The company's dismal performance in Q1 has been particularly troubling to investors — and may explain Piasentin's departure.

The company has taken steps to address its problems, starting with new leadership helmed by president and CEO Thorsten Heins, the ramp of its new BlackBerry 10 operating system, new phones like the BlackBerry Z10, and a restructuring process that included 5,000 layoffs in 2012.

But BlackBerry has continued to struggle, despite these efforts. Heins' pledge to shore up the company's leaky position as the go-to smartphone maker for the enterprise, let alone its plummeting reputation among consumers in mature markets, has thus far failed to result in profitable financial performances.

While BlackBerry has reported encouraging growth in emerging markets, its performance on the big stage has faltered — a major point of contention for investors at the company's annual general meeting held this week.

Investors at the meeting peppered Heins with questions about the possibility of BlackBerry being broken up and demanded explanations for the company's poor showing.

Meanwhile, shareholders have approved the company's name change from Research In Motion (RIM) to BlackBerry, a designation the smartphone maker has been unofficially using for several months.

"The name change to BlackBerry from Research In Motion comes at a pivotal moment in our company's history. BlackBerry changed the world when the first products were introduced in 1999. Today, we are charting a new course in mobile computing, creating new products and services under an integrated, branded organization. Our new name delivers on our iconic brand's reputation for keeping people moving and productive in an ever connected world," Heins said in a statement.