updated 04:15 pm EDT, Fri June 10, 2011
Investor demands RIM decouple executive roles
RIM's co-founders faced a minor investor mutiny on Friday after a shareholder group, Northwest & Ethical Investments, called on the company to decouple the roles of chairman and CEO. A filing revealed that it had asked for co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis to no longer automatically assume board chairman roles along with their control of the company itself. They called on the company to make the chairman an independent board member.
Northwest singled out an incident where Balsillie had resigned his chairman spot in early 2009 due to a stock options controversy, only to come back in December 2010. The move ran against ethical best practices and its own commitment to improving financial integrity, the investors said in a statement.
RIM's annual shareholder meeting is due July 12. The company has made an official recommendation against the motion and claims John Richardson is the effective leader of the board. As chairmen, however, the two CEOs have disproportionate power.
Balsillie and Lazaridis have headed up RIM since it was created but have more recently been called liabilities for their insistence on personal control of management beyond other CEO-centric companies like Apple. They had been hailed during RIM's rise and virtual dominance of business phones but have been chastised for being slow to change strategy and rapidly losing share to Android and iPhone. Concerns have also existed over increasingly erratic behavior when facing challenges from the press.