RIM Replaces Co-CEOs With One: Thorsten Heins

RIM's co-CEOs just stepped down. The two men that founded the company that made BlackBerry a raging success have finally caved to mounting pressure to innovate and keep up with Android, iOS and the rest of the growing mobile landscape. Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie are stepping down, with existing COO Thorsten Heins to take over as the sole chief executive. Both of the ex-CEOs will be hanging around the company in various forms, but they won't be calling the same shots. Mike Lazaridis, former Co-Chair and Co-CEO, has become Vice Chair of RIM’s Board and Chair of the Board’s new Innovation Committee. As Vice Chair, he will work closely with Mr. Heins to offer strategic counsel, provide a smooth transition and continue to promote the BlackBerry brand worldwide.  On the transition to CEO by Mr. Heins, Mr. Lazaridis said, “There comes a time in the growth of every successful company when the founders recognize 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.  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.”

Jim Balsillie remains a member of the Board. “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,” he said. “I remain a significant shareholder and a Director and, of course, they will have my full support.”

Mr. Lazaridis said that he decided to move from Co-Chair to Vice Chair of the Board in order to return the public’s focus to what is most important: “the great company we have built, its iconic products, global brand and its talented employees.”  
Mr. Lazaridis added, “Thorsten has demonstrated throughout his tenure at RIM that he has the right mix of leadership, relevant industry experience and skills to take the company forward.  We have been impressed with his operational skills at both RIM and Siemens.  I am so confident in RIM’s future that I intend to purchase an additional $50 million of the company’s shares, as permitted, in the open market.”

But here's the real question: will it make any difference? The new guy is from RIM, and he's probably had a hand in not exactly innovating over the past few years. What'll change now? We would have rather seen an outsider come in and truly shake things up, but instead it'll be an internal employee trying to do things differently than he has seen them over the past few years. Best of luck -- the market's a tough one.