Monday, October 28, 2013


     The few, the proud, the BlackBerry lovers


Bob Wislow was on a river cruise in northern Russia a few weeks ago when he received my email asking why he loves his BlackBerry.

"Just this afternoon, at least five different fellow passengers saw me answering my emails and asked in sheer frustration if I could help them get an email forwarded" because they couldn't connect to the Internet, the CEO of U.S. Equities Realty LLC replied. He also owns an iPhone 4 for backup in the event his BlackBerry doesn't perform, though he says that's never happened.

Adopters of the iPhone may see BlackBerry going the way of lunchtime martinis. But Chicago BlackBerry owners I spoke to, most of whom are older than 40, are steadfast in their love of the device.

Michael Pucker, a partner at Latham Watkins LLP, is holding on to his BlackBerry "as long as I can, because I don't see anyone coming out with a keyboard with the same functionality." Les Coney, an executive vice president at Mesirow Financial Holdings Inc., touts the photo capabilities. And Bruce Zivian, a Perkins Coie LLP partner who works in venture capital and private equity, says it's easy to make appointments and follow email strings on his BlackBerry.

They remain loyal even in the wake of Ontario-based BlackBerry Ltd.'s $1 billion in losses last quarter. While the company looks for a buyer, executives find solace in their new BlackBerry 10s. The updated device makes it easy to ignore the ribbing that comes when they pull out what to some seems like a dinosaur of electronics.

Larry Richman has the last laugh when iPhone users scrounge for outlets at the airport. He pulls out charged BlackBerry batteries from his briefcase.
"I try to keep up with the new technology and have an iPhone, iPad Mini and Kindle, but I always go to BlackBerry to type," the PrivateBancorp Inc. CEO says. "I know it's likely a matter of time (before BlackBerry is no longer in business) and a bit embarrassing to pull it out. My kids give me a hard time."

IPhone user Glen Tullman, managing partner of 7wire Ventures, says he doesn't know anyone who still owns a BlackBerry. (HE MUST NOT KNOW ANYONE WHO'S ANYONE)

Actually, his brother, venture capitalist Howard Tullman, is a BlackBerry addict. He also has a Moto X for Google voice apps; and to connect to his Google Glass, a Samsung Galaxy S4 and a new Nokia Lumina 1020. He uses his iPhone 5 for demonstrations via Apple TV. For email, however, he loves his BlackBerry. "I use the BlackBerry a hundred times a day at a minimum since I get more than 400 emails a day."

Scott Hodes says the device is as important as his keys, credit cards and watch. In fact, says the senior counsel at Bryan Cave LLP, "if BlackBerry stays in business," he expects he'll eventually be able to ditch those three essentials. (Note: The BlackBerry may be antiquated, but it does have a clock.)

Northern Trust Midwest CEO Steve MacLellan, a native of Canada who has two BlackBerrys, says, "You need a thick skin to own two. I say it's my way of supporting the Canadian economy."

Deputy Chicago Mayor Steve Koch, Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, Chicago International Film Festival founder Michael Kutza and Marsha Cruzan, Chicago market president of U.S. Bank, all have "a BlackBerry dependence," as Eric Herman, managing director of ASGK Public Strategies, calls it. "I'm a Luddite," he says. "I have a deep aversion to change. And I have fat fingers and need a keypad."

Amanda Puck, executive vice president at public relations agency XA, has smaller fingers but says "it's a point of pride" that she can text on her BlackBerry without looking.

Society diva and Huffington Post contributing editor Sugar Rautbord says her BlackBerry devotion "has something to do with dexterity and cranial comfort." She wrote a review of Broadway's "I'll Eat You Last," starring Bette Midler, on hers.

And Lilia Chacon, public-relations director for the city treasurer and owner of two of the devices, got a sign earlier this month that BlackBerry's future could be short.

"I left one of them on a bench in Millennium Park. Someone actually turned it in to the T-Mobile store on State Street," she says. "No one even wanted to steal it."

Read more from Shia Kapos on her blog.

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