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.

Research in Motion Logo
Research in Motion

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.

Thorsten Heins
Thorsten Heins, the new CEO of Research in Motion (Pho­to cour­tesy of RIM).

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.


About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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2 replies on “BlackBerry maker Research in Motion names new chief executive officer and board chair”

  1. Thorsten Heins is a hor­ri­ble choice. With appal­ing­ly behind-the-times, unin­spired hard­ware, dat­ed design, and slop­py exe­cu­tion, the last thing Black­ber­ry needs is an insid­er to take con­trol of a com­pa­ny that is increas­ing­ly liv­ing in their own fan­ta­sy world where they are still a rel­e­vant player. 

    I want to see Black­ber­ry suc­ceed. They will not suc­ceed by doing the same things better/on time. They need to do dif­fer­ent things, and that takes some­one out­side of the Blackberry/Crackberry bubble.

    1. Do you own a recent­ly made Black­Ber­ry, Steven? The phones Research in Motion intro­duced begin­ning last sum­mer, along with the Play­Book tablet, are much more pow­er­ful and styl­ish than pre­vi­ous prod­uct lines. Most phones run­ning the Black­Ber­ry 7 OS have rea­son­ably fast proces­sors (1 Ghz or bet­ter), liq­uid graph­ics, ample mem­o­ry, excel­lent cam­era, and sup­port Near Field Com­mu­ni­ca­tion (NFC). RIM took time get­ting the phones to mar­ket, but they’re avail­able now and peo­ple who own them are very hap­py with them.

      Thorsten Heins is already being con­demned by tech pun­dits and ana­lysts who think they know how to run com­pa­nies like Research in Motion bet­ter than the com­pa­ny’s board or its own exec­u­tives. He has­n’t had a chance to prove him­self yet. 

      If you want RIM to suc­ceed, why not give him a chance? 

      (By the way, Black­Ber­ry is spelled with two cap­i­tal Bs).

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