New York: Blackberry-maker Research in Motion's co-chairmen and co-chief executive officers Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis have stepped down as the troubled company puts in place a new team, including an Indian-origin executive, to regain lost market share amid stiff competition.
The board of directors of Ontario, Canada-based RIM said it is implementing a new succession plan based on its "own due diligence" and has unanimously named Thorsten Heins as President and Chief Executive Officer of the company.
Heins was also appointed to RIM's board with immediate effect.
Barbara Stymiest, who formerly served as a member of Royal Bank of Canada's Group Executive and has been a member of RIM's Board since 2007, has been named the independent board Chair.
Lazaridis has become Vice-Chair of RIM's board and Chair of the board's new Innovation Committee and will work closely with Heins to offer strategic counsel and provide a smooth transition.
"There comes a time in the growth of every successful company when the founders recognise 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," Lazaridis said on Heins' appointment as CEO.
Hyderabad-born Prem Watsa was also named to the RIM Board, expanding it to 11 members. An IIT alumnus, Watsa is the Chairman of the board of directors and the Chief Executive Officer of Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited, a financial services holding company.
He is also Vice-President of Hamblin Watsa Investment Counsel Ltd since 1985. Watsa formerly served as Vice-President of GW Asset Management from 1983 to 1984 and in various positions, ultimately as Vice-President, with Confederation Life Investment Counsel from 1974 to 1983.
Balsillie and Lazaridis have been confronted by unhappy shareholders and customers as RIM lost market share rapidly amid stiff competition from Apple's iPhone and phones that run on Google's Android software.
RIM saw its share of the American smartphone market drop to about 9 percent in the third quarter of 2011 from nearly half the market two years earlier.
The company's stock price tanked about 75 percent last year.
Lazaridis said with BlackBerry 7 phones out now, the PlayBook 2.0 tablet 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."
Balsillie remains a member of RIM's 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," Balsillie said.
"I remain a significant shareholder and a director and, of course, they will have my full support," he added.
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."
Lazaridis added that he intends to purchase an additional USD 50 million of the company's shares in the open market.
Heins 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.
Heins said RIM has a strong foundation on which to build.
"We have a strong balance sheet with approximately USD 1.5 billion in cash at the end of the last quarter and negligible debt. We reported revenue of USD 5.2 billion in our last quarter, up 24 percent from the prior quarter, and a 35 percent year-to-year increase in the BlackBerry subscriber base, which is now over 75 million," he said.
Heins said while RIM has grown quickly, "as with any company that has grown as fast as we have, there have been inevitable growing pains. 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," he added.
John Richardson, formerly Lead Director, will remain on the board.
First Published: Monday, January 23, 2012, 09:05