RIM founders Lazaridis and Balsillie step down as co-CEOs, replaced by former Siemens man Heins

Duo to continue to serve on board

RIM founders Lazaridis and Balsillie step down as co-CEOs, replaced by former Siemens man Heins
It would be untrue to say it's an unexpected development, but RIM's decision to replace co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie with Thorsten Heins still represents a seismic shift for the 28 year old company.

The decision – taken by the board after "conducting its own due diligence" - is effective immediately and will see Lazaridis become vice chair of RIM's board and chair of its new innovation committee. Balsillie, meanwhile, will also continue to serve on the board.

Their replacement Heins has been at RIM for the past four years, having previously worked at Siemens for 23 years, having risen to depart as technology chief.

The two co-founders will step down as co-chairs of the board and Heins will take the role of CEO and president. 

Barbara Stymiest, who formerly served as a member of Royal Bank of Canada’s Group Executive and has been a member of RIM’s board since 2007, has been named the independent Board Chair.

Time to burn

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

"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."

The departures of Lazaridis and Balsillie comes after RIM endured a torrid 2011, losing vital market share to both Android and iOS, suffering supposed calls from within for the two to step down and a less than stellar start for the firm's iPad challenger PlayBook.

Back in July, the two finally responded to pressure and went to the board to – as part of a wider investigation – determine whether the company would be better served by their departure. Only now, however, has any such decision been made.

Lasting legacy

"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," added Balsillie.

"I remain a significant shareholder and a director and, of course, they will have my full support."

For his part, Heins offered support for many of the decisions taken by his predecessors over the course of the last 18 months, in particular praising their purchase of QNX – the firm whose OS will now serve as the backbone for all future BlackBerry handsets under the moniker BB10.

Onward with Heins

"We are more confident than ever that was the right path," added Heins.

"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.

"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."

Lazaridis has also revealed he will buy $50 million of BlackBerry shares on the open market as a mark of his belief in the company's future.

[source: RIM]

You can hear Heins' view on RIM below. 

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.