Blackberry maker Research In Motion (RIM) has announced that Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie have stepped down as co-chief executives and co-chairmen of the board in a major leadership shake-up.
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Chief operating officer Thorsten Heins is the new chief executive, and Barbara Stymiest, an independent director who joined the RIM board in 2007, is the new board chair.
Lazaridis is to take up the role of vice-chairman, while Balsillie will continue to sit on the board, but will not have any operational role.
The move comes after a board investigation into the leadership structure in response to increasing pressure from investors as RIM’s value has fallen from about $80bn in 2008 to around $9bn in the face of competition from Apple and Google.
The leadership change was long overdue, with a string of poor executive decisions, lacklustre innovation, unkept promises in delivering new products, and a lack of understanding that its part of the tech industry was undergoing a fundamental shift, according to the BBC.
Lazaridis said he recognised that things needed to change at the company, and that he and Balsillie had told the board it was time for a change.
Newly appointed CEO Thorsten Heins said that in any fast-growing company, growing pains were inevitable, but RIM had learned from its challenges and was a stronger company as a result.
RIM not for sale
RIM has long been the subject of takeover speculation that has identified Microsoft, Nokia, Amazon and Samsung as potential buyers.
But Heins said he planned to ensure that RIM remains one of the top three wireless companies in the industry and would “fortify” Blackberry's position in the corporate market.
“I want to maintain the focus on enterprise, but we need to communicate a bit more with our consumers. We need to do more marketing,” he said.
Heins’s priorities include the planned launch of a new version of RIM’s Playbook tablet next month and the roll-out later this year of the Blackberry 10 operating system, according to the Financial Times.
These developments, he said, and the recent launch of the Blackberry 7.1 device, are evidence that RIM is responding vigorously to the challenges it faces.
RIM shares dropped 3% on Friday 20 January, but analysts expect news of the leadership shake-up to prompt an uptick this week.