BlackBerry Founders Quit Struggling Firm

Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, CEOs of BlackBerry-maker RIM

Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, CEOs of BlackBerry-maker RIM

The two founders and chief executives of Research in Motion, the makers of BlackBerry smartphones, have quit.
Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis bowed to growing pressure from investors to leave the embattled technology company.
The once-pioneering firm has struggled to compete with rival products from Apple and Google in recent years.
While building its reputation as a business tool, BlackBerry has come under increasing fire for being too email-focused in recent years.
BlackBerry’s latest Playbook tablet, designed to rival Apple’s iPad, was poorly received and RIM’s share price has been hovering at eight-year low.
Thorsten Heins, a former Siemens AG executive who joined RIM four years ago, will take the top spot.
He has risen steadily through the Canadian company’s upper management ranks since joining in late 2007.
Mr Balsillie and Mr Lazaridis have been at the helm of the business as co-chief executives and chairmen for 20 years.
While the pair are credited with building Mr Lazaridis’ 1985 start-up into a world-leading business tool, making £13bn in sales last year, they are also associated with presiding over its decline.
Investors have been clamouring for months for a significant strategic overhaul, fresh leadership or a sale of the company as the BlackBerry maker struggled to compete with rivals.
Mr Lazaridis said: “There comes a time in the growth of every successful company when the founders recognise 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.”
Mr Heins said his most immediate concerns were to sell RIM’s current line up of BlackBerry 7 touchscreen devices, deliver on a promised software upgrade for its PlayBook tablet computer by February, and rally RIM’s troops to launch the next-generation BlackBerry 10 phones later this year.
Commenting on the management change, Ed Snyder, an analyst at Charter Equity, said: “It’s the first positive thing that they have done in months.”
But he added: “Their problems are deep-rooted, and it’s going to take time.”
Michael Urlocker, an analyst with GMP Securities, questioned whether Mr Heins had the right background for the job that faces him.
“I am not sure that an engineer as new CEO really gets to the central issues faced by RIM,” he said.
Mr Lazaridis and Mr Balsillie also gave up their shared role as chairman of RIM’s board and will be replaced by Barbara Stymiest, an independent existing board member who once headed the Toronto Stock Exchange.
But the pair, who are two of RIM’s largest shareholders, will remain on the board, with Mr Lazaridis keeping a particularly active role as vice-chair and head of a newly created innovation committee.



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