Research In Motion's Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie
have bowed to investor pressure and resigned as
co-CEOs, handing the top job to Thorsten Heins, an
insider with four years at the struggling BlackBerry
The Board of Directors of Research In Motion (RIM)
today announced that, acting on the recommendation of
its Co-Chief Executive Officers to implement the
succession plan they previously submitted to the
Board, it has unanimously named Thorsten Heins as
President and Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Heins was
also appointed to RIM?s Board. Both appointments are
Mike Lazaridis, former Co-Chair and Co-CEO, has become
Vice Chair of RIM's Board and Chair of the Board's new
Innovation Committee. As Vice Chair, he will work
closely with Mr. Heins to offer strategic counsel,
provide a smooth transition and continue to promote
the BlackBerry brand worldwide.
Lazaridis founded the company in 1984, while Balsillie has worked at the company for 20 years.
Mr. Heins said he looks forward to continuing to work
with Mr. Lazaridis, globally recognized as a
technology pioneer. He said, "Mike created a whole new
way of communicating and I look forward to continuing
our close collaboration."
On the transition to CEO by Mr. Heins, Mr. Lazaridis
said, "There comes a time in the growth of every
successful company when the founders recognize the
need to pass the baton to new leadership. Jim and I
went to the Board and told them that we thought that
time was now. With BlackBerry 7 now out, PlayBook 2.0
shipping in February and BlackBerry 10 expected to
ship later this year, the company is entering a new
phase, and we felt it was time for a new leader to
take it through that phase and beyond. Jim, the Board
and I all agreed that leader should be Thorsten
Jim Balsillie remains a member of the Board. "I agree
this is the right time to pass the baton to new
leadership, and I have complete confidence in
Thorsten, the management team and the company," he
said. "I remain a significant shareholder and a
Director and, of course, they will have my full
Mr. Lazaridis said that he decided to move from
Co-Chair to Vice Chair of the Board in order to return
the public's focus to what is most important: "the
great company we have built, its iconic products,
global brand and its talented employees."
Mr. Lazaridis added, "Thorsten has demonstrated
throughout his tenure at RIM that he has the right mix
of leadership, relevant industry experience and skills
to take the company forward. We have been impressed
with his operational skills at both RIM and Siemens.
I am so confident in RIM's future that I intend to
purchase an additional $50 million of the company's
shares, as permitted, in the open market."
Mr. Heins said he believes that RIM has tremendous
potential. He joined RIM from Siemens Communications
Group in December 2007 as Senior Vice President for
Hardware Engineering and became Chief Operating
Officer for Product and Sales in August 2011.
"Mike and Jim took a bold step 18 months ago when RIM
purchased QNX to shepherd the transformation of the
BlackBerry platform for the next decade," Mr. Heins
said. "We are more confident than ever that was the
right path. It is Mike and Jim's continued
unwillingness to sacrifice long-term value for
short-term gain which has made RIM the great company
that it is today. I share that philosophy and am very
excited about the company's future."
Mr. Heins said, "BlackBerry 7 has been well received.
We are very excited about PlayBook 2.0 and BlackBerry
10. The reception of our products at this year's
Consumer Electronics Show was encouraging."
Mr. Heins said that RIM has grown quickly. "As with
any company that has grown as fast as we have, there
have been inevitable growing pains," he said. "We have
learned from those challenges and, I believe, we have
and will become a stronger company as a result.
"Going forward, we will continue to focus both on
short-term and long-term growth, strategic planning, a
customer- and market-based product approach, and
flawless execution. We are in the process of
recruiting a new Chief Marketing Officer to work
closely with our product and sales teams to deliver
the most compelling products and services."
After growing wildly through the 2000s and breaking-out of the enterprise mold, Blackberry devices gained favor with non-business customers. But in 2007, the iPhone was introduced and the smartphone world quickly shifted to applications, while RIM stuck to the same business model that had worked so well in the past.
RIM thought that it could at least keep its core enterprise customers, but once the iPhone and Android platforms incorporated enterprise security and support for Microsoft Exchange, even those customers left the RIM platform in droves. In an effort to reduce the bleeding, RIM launched the enterprise-friendly Playbook tablet, its answer to Apple?s iPad, but that plan also failed, and RIM has resorted to liquidation pricing.
Shortly, RIM will be releasing its first QNX-based smartphones. RIM purchased QNX in 2010 and used QNX in its Playbook.
RIM still has millions of followers in the U.S., Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa; in a few countries, the BlackBerry remains the top smartphone used, but even in these countries, the move to higher-powered smartphones is starting to take hold. This year will be a very important one for RIM, and if Heins can save the company, his appointment hasn?t come a moment too soon.