UPDATE 1-RIM sales chief hired by audio company Sonos-sources

Thu May 24, 2012 8:00pm EDT

* Patrick Spence resigned this week to take Sonos job

* Sonos audio equipment wireless controls music playback

* Being passed over for COO job helped push Spence out-source

By Alastair Sharp

TORONTO, May 24 (Reuters) - Patrick Spence, who resigned this week as global head of sales at struggling BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd, has been hired as chief commercial officer at wireless home audio company Sonos Inc, several sources with knowledge of his plans said.

Sonos is a privately held consumer electronics company based in Santa Barbara, California, with offices in France, Germany, the Netherlands, China and Malaysia.

Sonos was not immediately available to comment. RIM declined to comment beyond a statement issued on Wednesday that said Spence was taking on a leadership role in another industry.

Spence was considered a rising star at RIM whose promotion to the global sales position last July recognised his major role in building strong sales growth in Europe and emerging markets such as the Middle East.

He was pivotal to the global launch of a range of BlackBerry 7 devices last year and worked to decentralize RIM's sales planning so it fit better with regional needs.

But analysts suggest his close ties to former RIM co-Chief Executive Jim Balsillie may have left him isolated after Balsillie quit earlier this year over a major strategy disagreement.

He was passed over for a vacant chief operating officer role at RIM this month, which one source said also pushed him to look for opportunities outside RIM.

RIM's Nasdaq-listed shares, already languishing at lows last seen in late 2003, closed 3.4 percent lower on Thursday at $10.71.

Sonos' audio system enables music to be played in different rooms of a house by its own remote control, or a computer, or smartphones and tablets from Apple Inc or running Google Inc's Android software.

It can play tracks from a user's own digital music library and is compatible with a range of streaming music services including Last.fm, Sirius XM Radio Inc, Pandora Media Inc, and Spotify.

As chief commercial officer, Spence will be a right-hand man to the company's founder and chief executive, John MacFarlane. The former head of Microsoft Corp's Xbox and phone division, Robbie Bach, sits on the board of Sonos.