BlackBerry maker ousts top management pair

RIM, maker of the once ubiquitous government tool, the BlackBerry mobile device, has replaced its long-serving leadership team of co-CEOs and co-board chairmen Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, effective immediately.

Thorsten Heins, formerly of Siemens AG, who joined RIM four years ago, was named to replace the pair. He also joins the board of directors.

Director Barbara Stymiest takes over as board chair. She is a former banker and Toronto stock exchange executive who’s been ranked among the world’s most powerful businesswomen.

Lazaridis, who founded RIM in 1984, will become vice chairman.

Balsillie will remain a board member without any operational role and chair of the Board’s new Innovation Committee, according to the company’s Jan. 22 announcement.

He will work closely with Heins to offer strategic counsel, provide a smooth transition and continue to promote the BlackBerry brand worldwide, the statement said.

“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 in the announcement. “I remain a significant shareholder and a director and, of course, they will have my full support.”

Ehud Gelblum, a Morgan Stanley analyst, told Bloomberg News that “Heins is a product execution guy, he’s not a visionary.”

He must give people a reason why they need a BlackBerry, he said. “It’s going to be very difficult for him.” Gelblum added.

The shakeup comes after Balsillie and Lazaridis showed little sign of being able to stop Apple and Google’s gains as those companies remade the mobile-computing market with devices such as the iPhone and iPad, Bloomberg reported.

The stock of the Waterloo, Ont.-based company fell 75 percent last year as sales slumped, and the two co-CEOs were criticized by investors for releasing products without the features necessary to compete, the business news agency said.

About the Author

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

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