updated 01:05 am EST, Tue December 27, 2011
Balsillie and Lazaridis said shutting out input
RIM's current struggles may have been spurred on by excessive co-CEO control of the board of directors. New insights from the Wall Street Journal suggest that the two CEOs, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, actively prevent other executives from learning what goes on in board meetings or otherwise influencing the final outcome. Balsillie reportedly has a "forceful presence" in meetings that dictates the agenda, while Lazaridis mostly presents device plans.
RIM's claimed deference to independent directors on the board rings hollow, the tipsters hinted. Main independent director John Richardson typically cedes to Balsillie and is characterized as a figurehead.
The company hasn't specifically responded to the assertions other than to note that seven of nine directors are independent and that Richardson is a "strong" source, sidestepping the more direct concerns.
Such comments hint that the independent panel that will be advising governance changes might not have a chance at making the deepest possible recommendations of changes to the core board or to the CEOs and, as a consequence, might not disrupt the existing model. Balsillie and Lazaridis have lately cast themselves as uniquely qualified to lead the company, arguing that only they can lead the transition to BlackBerry 10 and that the dynamic of two CEOs, which is virtually unheard of elsewhere, can help the company.
Much of 2011 for RIM has been defined by a mismatch between company expectations and reality. It consistently gave financial guidance this year that it didn't meet. Expectations for BlackBerry PlayBook shipments are also known to have been too high and saw it continually lowering the numbers, cutting prices, and clearing unsold stock even into the fall, where the PlayBook now has a near-permanent 60 percent price cut.