Shakeup at RIM: Co-CEOs Step Down Amid Reorganization

RIM CEOs Balsillie and Lazaridis Outgoing CEOs Lazaridis and Balsillie.

Research In Motion (RIM) co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis are stepping down from their positions early Monday and handing leadership over to current COO Thorsten Heins, the Wall Street Journal reported late Sunday.

The struggling Canadian tech company, which once lead the pack of email-enabled mobile devices, will see its two leaders who have guided the company for 20 years reduced to much less active roles. Mr. Lazaridis will become vice chairman of the board and Mr. Balsillie, while retaining his board position, will not have any operational role. 

Bloomberg reports that the changes in RIM’s leadership are the result of years of failure in remaining competitive with rivals Apple and Google, whose surge in smartphone operating system adoption have reduced RIM to last place in U.S. usage share, with 6.5% as of November 2011.

New RIM CEO Thorsten Heins New RIM CEO Thorsten Heins.

While RIM’s stock has plummeted in the past two years and investors have criticized the company over its recent failed products, such as the Playbook, the company clarified that the decision of the CEOs to step down was their own and that outside pressure was not responsible. 

“This marks the beginning of a new era for RIM,” Mr. Lazaridis said to The Wall Street Journal. “It was a bit of bumpy ride. We’ve done it as best we could. Thorsten is the ideal choice. He has the right skills at the right time.” 

Although investors and analysts are concerned about RIM’s ability to regain marketshare against surging Apple and Google, Reuters reports that Mr. Heins stated that there are no immediate plans to sell the company and that his primary concern is to sell RIM’s current Blackberry 7 devices, update the Playbook, and “rally the troops” for the launch of the company’s new Blackberry 10 line of products coming later in 2012.

“We are in a competitive world, but we believe in our own strength,” Mr. Heins said. “I’m here to fight.”