RIM Gets New CEO, Chair As Co-Owners Step Down Amid iPhone Pressure

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Photo by Ninja M. - http://flic.kr/p/6TrRGS
Photo by Ninja M. - http://flic.kr/p/6TrRGS

Research in Motion announced over the weekend that the company’s two co-founders have stepped down as co-CEOs of the embattled BlackBerry maker in favor of two relative unknowns. RIM’s Chief Operating Officer Thorsten Heins becomes the new CEO while Royal Bank of Canada executive Barbara Stymiest was named independent chair.


“There comes a time in the growth of every successful company when the founders recognize the need to pass the baton to new leadership,” said RIM co-founder and former co-CEO and co-board chair Mike Lazaridis.

Both Lazaridis and co-founder and co-CEO Jim Balsillie stepped down from their leadership posts Sunday. Lazaridis will remain as a board vice chair and chair of RIM’s new Innovation Committee. Balsillie will also stay as a board member.

Thorsten joined RIM in 2007 as Senior Vice President of Hardware Engineering, becoming Chief Operating Officer for Product and Sales in August 2011. Before RIM, he served 27 years at Siemens. Recent reports described Stymiest as “a lock” for the independent chair spot.

Although both Lazaridis and Balsillie suggest the corporate shakeup was mutually agreed, for some time, investors have urged the Waterloo, Ont. company to oust the two men as a possible way for RIM to recover its lost prestige in the minds of Wall Street and consumers. Just in 2011, the company cut 10 percent of its payroll as Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android trounced RIM’s once-secure position. Investors felt both co-founders were unable to lead the company in such a new landscape.

However, it is uncertain whether RIM will undergo any drastic departure from past leadership. Heins announced his support for the company’s decision to buy the QNX operating system, saying he was “more confident than ever that was the right path.” Even more disconcerting, Heins said both co-founders’ decision to forego “long-term value for short-term gain” has “made RIM the great company that it is today.”

The question becomes when will RIM show any gains — short-term or long-term and how can anyone claim RIM is a “great company” today? Last I looked, neither Apple or Android were getting weaker or that consumers will fall in love with RIM’s products if just given enough time.

Why does rearranging deck chairs come to mind?