TORONTO — BlackBerry maker Research in Motion’s co-CEOs, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, announced Sunday that they are stepping down from the once-iconic company, which has struggled to compete in recent years.
The RIM founders will be replaced by Thorsten Heins, a chief operating officer who joined the company four years ago from Siemens AG, RIM said.
Balsillie and Lazaridis have headed Ontario-based RIM for two decades.
The Canadian company has suffered a series of setbacks and has lost tens of billions in market value.
RIM said last month that new phones deemed critical to its future would be delayed until late this year. Its PlayBook tablet, RIM’s answer to the Apple iPad, failed to win over consumers, forcing the company to give it deep discounts to move the devices off store shelves.
Many shareholders and analysts have said a change has been needed, blaming Balsillie and Lazaridis for poor performance. The company, worth more than $70 billion a few years ago, now has a market value of $8.9 billion.
“There comes a time in
the growth of every successful company when the founders recognize the need to pass the baton to new leadership,” said Lazaridis, who will take on a new role as vice chairman of RIM’s board and chairman of its new innovation committee. Balsillie remains a member of the board.
Analysts have said the company’s future depends on its much-delayed new software platform. RIM needs to come up with a compelling BlackBerry, as U.S. users have moved on to flashier touchscreen phones such as Apple’s iPhone and competing models that run Google’s Android software.
Heins said Lazaridis and Balsillie took RIM in the right direction and said he’s committed to the new software platform.
“We are more confident than ever that was the right path. 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,” Heins said.
Barbara Stymiest, a former chief operating officer of the Royal Bank of Canada who has been a member of RIM’s board since 2007, has been named the independent board chair.
Balsillie and Lazaridis have long been celebrated as Canadian heroes, even appearing in the country’s citizenship guide for new immigrants as models of success.