Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie have stepped down as co-CEOs and co-chairmen of BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion, with the company's former COO appointed the company's head.
Thorsten Heins takes over the business effective immediately. Both Lazaridis and Balsillie has been under pressure from shareholders for some time. Last month,the company announced a 71% slump in net income in its third quarter results, wrote off $356m for unsold Blackberry PlayBooks and revealed its new operating system would not hit the market until the fourth quarter of 2012. The business was coming under increasing pressure from rivals in the smartphone market.
Lazaridis will become vice-chair of RIM's board and chairman of the board's new innovation committee. The company said he will offer strategic counsel to Heins and guide his transition to CEO. Balsillie will remain a member of the board. Board member Barbara Stymiest, a former member of Royal Bank of Canada’s Group Executive, has been appointed independent group chair.
Heins joined Research in Motion from Siemens in December 2007 as senior VP for hardware engineering. He was appointed COO for product and sales in August 2011. He said: '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.'
Lazaridis said: '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.' He added he intends to buy an additional $50m of shares on the open market, as a sign of good faith.
Heins added: '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.'
Speaking on behalf of the board, Stymiest said: 'We believe that Thorsten is the right executive to succeed Mike and Jim. He has 27 years of telecommunications experience, including four years at RIM in senior management positions. As a board, we have been impressed with his outstanding management skills, his leadership and his accomplishments within the company.'
She also paid tribute to Lazaridis and Balsillie: 'They created RIM, nurtured it, and in the process not only built an iconic brand, but literally pioneered the smartphone industry. It is Canada’s largest tech company and one of the largest in the world.'