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Balsillie, Lazaridis Step Down as RIM Co-CEOs

January 23, 2012

RIM Mike Lazaridis

Research in Motion on Sunday confirmed that Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis (left) will step down as co-CEOs after heading up the company for two decades.

Taking over as president and CEO will be Thorsten Heins, who had served as chief operating officer of product engineering. "Mike created a whole new way of communicating and I look forward to continuing our close collaboration," Heins said of Lazaridis.

Lazaridis will remain at RIM as vice chair of the board while Balsillie will remain a director, RIM said.

"There comes a time in the growth of every successful company when the founders recognize the need to pass the baton to new leadership," Lazaridis said in a statement. "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."

Lazaridis went on to sale that he was "so confident in RIM's future" that he will purchase an additional $50 million of the company's shares.

"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."

Heins joined RIM in December 2007 from Siemens Communications Group and was named COO for Product and Sales in August 2011.

"Mike and Jim took a bold step 18 months ago when RIM purchased QNX to shepherd the transformation of the BlackBerry platform for the next decade," Mr. Heins said. "We are more confident than ever that was the right path. It is Mike and Jim's continued unwillingness to sacrifice long-term value for short-term gain which has made RIM the great company that it is today. I share that philosophy and am very excited about the company's future."

RIM had a tough 2011. When it unveiled its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet the year before, expectations were high. "BlackBerry PlayBook is RIM's Revolution," PCMag's Sascha Segan wrote at the time. Unfortunately, the April launch wasn't a rousing success. Where was that native email? Contacts apps, anyone? By May, RIM recalled 1,000 PlayBooks due to a software glitch, Sprint canceled the PlayBook 4G, and then the price drops started.

In addition to PlayBook troubles, however, RIM was also hit with the worst BlackBerry outage in its history in October. The company was then sued over the use of BBX, the name for its next-gen OS, which combined elements of QNX and BlackBerry OS 7. Eventually, RIM switched the name to BlackBerry 10.

By mid-December, RIM wrote off $485 million worth of PlayBooks that it was unable to sell, and delayed BlackBerry 10 phones because of component issues. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this month, however, RIM showed off its PlayBook 2.0 OS, which is scheduled to be launched next month.

Heins chalked up last year's difficulties to growing pains. "As with any company that has grown as fast as we have, there have been inevitable growing pains," he said. "We have learned from those challenges and, I believe, we have and will become a stronger company as a result.

Earlier this month, there were reports that Samsung was looking to acquire RIM, but Samsung denied it.




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