Embattled smartphone manufacturer Research in Motion announced late Sunday that co-CEOs, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, were stepping down from their position effective immediately. Thorsten Heins, former Chief Operating Officer, Product Engineering, was announced as the successor to the duo.
This announcement comes after rumors emerged that an independent member of the company’s board of directors, Barbara Stymiest, was preparing a particularly damning report on the company’s corporate governance structure. This report was expected to include a recommendation to strip Messer Lazaridis and Balsillie of their position as co-chair of the board but not necessarily as co-CEO.
Ms. Stymiest, former CEO of the Toronto Stock Exchange and an independent director who joined RIM’s board in 2007, will take over as chairwoman. Mr. Lazaridis was appointed vice-chair of the board with responsibilities to examine innovation, and Mr. Balsillie will remain a director with no executive duties.
“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,” Mr. Balsillie said in a news release on the company’s website. “I remain a significant shareholder and a director and, of course, they will have my full support.”
“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,” Mr. Lazaridis said to Reuters.
“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,” Mr. Lazaridis said in a press release.
“We have been impressed with his operational skills at both RIM and Siemens.”
In an email sent to employees of RIM the former co-CEOs expressed confidence in the company and said that Mr. Heins brings the “rigor and creativity necessary to help all of you do it better and faster.”
Mr. Heins was quick say the company is on the right course and does not need a change in strategy.
“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,” Mr. Heins said. “We are in the process of recruiting a new Chief Marketing Officer to work closely with our product and sales teams to deliver the most compelling products and services.”
In an interview with the Globe and Mail Mr. Heins said, “everything is in place for the company to grow and succeed in a rapidly-changing smart phone sector in which some critics think RIM has been left behind.”
“I’m happy that we’re not just a handset manufacturer,” Mr. Heins told the Globe. “It’s this integrated platform.”
During 2011, in which the company faced a multitude of failures and challenges, the share price plunged from $59.88 in January to $14.80 by year’s end. Between June 2008 — when it held the title of most valuable Canadian firm — and June 2011, the company declined 82 percent in value loosing $70 billion for shareholders.