Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie have stepped down in favour of former chief operating officer and Siemens veteran Thorsten Heins, but analysts are not convinced this will turn the BlackBerry maker around
Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, Research In Motion's long-standing co-chief executives and co-chairmen, have stepped down from both roles following extensive pressure over the the BlackBerry maker's performance.
Thorsten Heins (left) has replaced Mike Lazaridis (centre) and Jim Balsillie as chief executive of RIM.Image credit: RIM
They have been replaced as chief executive by Thorsten
Heins, a long-term Siemens veteran who joined RIM in 2007 as hardware
engineering head before becoming chief operating officer in August
last year. Lazaridis, who founded RIM in 1984, and Balsillie, who
became co-CEO in 1992, will both stay on the company's
"Mike created a whole new way of communicating, and I look forward
to continuing our close collaboration," Heins said in RIM's announcement on
In the RIM statement, Lazaridis did not refer to the company's
troubles, which mostly stem from the runaway popularity of Apple's iOS
and Google's Android. Stock markets have reacted negatively to poor
sales of RIM's PlayBook tablet and the fact that the next major
update to the firm's operating system, the QNX-based BlackBerry 10,
will only arrive in the second half of this year.
"There comes a time in the growth of every successful company when
the founders recognise the need to pass the baton to new leadership," Lazaridis said. "Jim and I went to the board and told them that we
thought that time was now."
7 now out, [the
delayed] 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 Heins," he added.
There comes a time in the growth of every successful company when the founders recognise the need to pass the baton to new leadership.– Mike Lazaridis, RIM
The departing executives have faced repeated calls from the likes of
activist shareholder Jaguar Financial to step down or at least split
their roles as both co-CEOs and co-chairmen. It was reported earlier
this month that they might give
up their roles as co-chairmen.
Lazaridis said he relinquished his co-chair
role "in order to return the public's focus to what is most
important", namely the company, its products, brand and employees.
After the weekend's shake-up, Lazaridis is now vice-chair of RIM's
board and chair of the board's new Innovation Committee, while
Balsillie remains a board member and director. Board member Barbara Stymiest has been named as the new chair.
Lazaridis said he has such confidence in
Heins, who had a 23-year career at Siemens, that he intends to buy an additional 50 million Canadian
dollars' worth of shares in RIM. However, Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi was less upbeat about the company's future, noting that Heins's appointment means an imminent sale of the BlackBerry maker is
"This is a move to placate the investors for a while, but a move
that is unlikely to bring the change needed," Milanesi told ZDNet UK on Monday. "The
rumours until last night that the position would go to a financial
person were more indicative of a strategy [of] selling the company,
while with Heins the indication is that RIM wants to fix the
The Waterloo, Ontario-based company has to decide whether it really is staking its future on BlackBerry 10, she said, noting the recent release of BlackBerry
Fusion release, which lets customers manage iOS and Android
devices as well as BlackBerry smartphones.
"If not, and they decide that Android is the future, they need to
focus on enabling Android in the enterprise where vendors are still
struggling today," Milanesi said. "RIM needs to understand and communicate
quite clearly what it wants to do."
In a YouTube video of Heins posted by RIM on Sunday, the new CEO laid out his view of how he wants the company to change. In one comment, he said RIM needs more discipline in getting its products
and updates onto the market as soon as possible.
"We're a great innovative company, but sometimes we innovate too
much while we're building a product, so I want to spend more time on
prototyping, on exploring and research and development while we're
building a product, on a separate stream," he said.
This is a move to placate the investors for a while, but a move that is unlikely to bring the change needed.– Carolina Milanesi, Gartner
BlackBerry 10 has to "ship on time" and be a "blow-the-socks-off"
experience for RIM's corporate and consumer customers, he added.
Heins's comments echo criticisms laid out by an anonymous employee in an open letter in July, which described the situation at the BlackBerry maker as "chaotic" and argued the company needed to cut back on the number of projects in development.
The new RIM boss said he believes the company can get back on track, if it shifts its approach.
"If we continue doing well what we're doing, I see no problems with
us being in the top three players worldwide in the next years in
wireless," Heins said. "What we need to get a bit better at is to have
a little bit more of an ear toward the consumer. We need to be
constantly communicating with our customers."
"Since launching CrackBerry.com in 2007, I have been wanting to get
an interview with RIM's CEOs. It has never happened. With Thorsten, it
happened in literally minutes, and it was the CEO who made it happen,
not the blogger," Michaluk wrote.
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