Big, big news out of Waterloo (Ontario) tonight: BlackBerry maker Research in Motion, one of Canada’s largest and most prestigious companies, has announced that its two top executives — who have jointly led the company as as co-chief executive officers and co-chairmen of the board for many years — are stepping down from those positions, effective immediately.
Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, who are both fifty, said in a statement that they believed the time had come for fresh leadership at Research in Motion.
“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. “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 and Balsillie stressed that they will both remain on RIM’s board. Lazaridis will serve as Vice Chair, alongside new Chair Barbara Stymiest, who has been a director of the company for several years. In addition, he’ll heading up a new Innovation Committee for the board, which is expanding to eleven members with the appointment of Prem Watsa, CEO of Fairfax Financial Holdings.
Watsa, now one of RIM’s largest shareholders, is widely considered to be a savvy and thoughtful investor; he has, on occasion, been referred to as the “Warren Buffett of Canada” by the business press.
RIM’s new CEO, Thorsten Heins, is no stranger to the company. Last August, he was promoted to serve as Chief Operating Officer (COO) for Product and Sales, after having served as Senior Vice President for RIM’s handheld business unit. Prior to joining RIM in 2007, he served as Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for Siemens AG, Europe’s largest electronics and electrical engineering company.
“Mike and Jim took a bold step eighteen months ago when RIM purchased QNX to shepherd the transformation of the BlackBerry platform for the next decade,” 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.”
Research in Motion has scheduled a global town hall meeting tomorrow for its employees to give them a chance to ask questions and get answers from its new CEO and outgoing co-CEOs. The town hall will take place at 7 AM Pacific Time.
The company has already posted a series of get-to-know Thorsten Heins videos on its official Inside BlackBerry blog, in which Heins discusses his vision and objectives for the company, as well as RIM’s upcoming PlayBook 2.0 update.
As BlackBerry users and enthusiasts, we at NPI have become increasingly concerned about Research in Motion’s future — though we believe the company gets a bad rap from the tech press, which is enamored with Apple and Google. There’s no question that RIM has stumbled recently, though it is hardly on the verge of collapsing or going bankrupt. We’ve long felt that what the company needs is a strong leader who can deliver products in a timely fashion and do a better job of managing expectations. And it appears RIM now has such a leader in Thorsten Heins.
Heins has already made one smart move: Earlier this evening, he personally called the founder of CrackBerry (one of the world’s most popular BlackBerry communities) to share the news of his promotion to the top job. That’s the kind of outreach that RIM needs to be doing more of. A well-run company is a company that makes itself as accessible as possible to its loyal customers.
We extend our congratulations to Mr. Heins on his new responsibilities. We wish him nothing but the utmost success. For years, we have depended on BlackBerry smartphones and tablets to keep us connected to NPI’s virtual infrastructure while on the go or in the field. And we will continue to. Our work requires a mobile platform with robust messaging capabilities, built-in security, and well-supported productivity applications. BlackBerry is that platform.