Rim Co-CEOs step down

Time for change at the top, with the COO taking over as Chief Exec
Darren Allan

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As we’ve written many times in the past few months, 2011 was a pretty bad year for Rim.

Tumbling smartphone share, a tablet which failed to make the impact the firm hoped, and a damaging global service blackout which lasted half a week all detracted from the company’s standing. It lost 75% of its share value last year.

What’s perhaps just as bad is the fact that the smartphone fightback, based on the new BB10 operating system, won’t be happening any time soon, rather much later in 2012 than Rim supporters might have hoped.

But changes are being made now, as of yesterday in fact, with a leadership switch to take BlackBerry into 2012.

Co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie have both stepped down to be replaced by Thorsten Heins as President and Chief Executive Officer.

Heins has been promoted from Chief Operating Officer, having been with the company for four years since joining from Siemens.

Lazaridis has become Vice Chair of Rim’s Board and Chair of the Board’s new Innovation Committee, where he will work with Heins to ensure a smooth transition of leadership. Jim Balsillie is to remain on Rim’s board.

Lazaridis commented: “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 Heins.”

He added: “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.”

Heins himself said Rim has a strong foundation upon which he can build a better future for the company.

He noted: “We have a strong balance sheet with approximately $1.5 billion in cash at the end of the last quarter and negligible debt. We reported revenue of $5.2 billion in our last quarter, up 24% from the prior quarter, and a 35% year-to-year increase in the BlackBerry subscriber base, which is now over 75 million.”

Still, there’s clearly a huge hill to climb in the coming year if the company’s finances are to remain robust.

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