updated 11:05 am EST, Tue January 3, 2012
RIM may partly act on calls for leadership change
The independent panel investigating possible management shakeups at RIM may push co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazardis out from their joint positions as chairmen of the board, contacts slipped out early on Tuesday. The terms, characterized by the Financial Post as already set, would most likely see independent director Barbara Stymiest take over in the position from the BlackBerry maker's co-founders.
A final decision hadn't been locked down, but Stymiest would be the frontrunner. It's not known if Balsillie or Lazaridis would stay on the board, although it's unlikely they would exit the board altogether.
RIM declined to comment. The panel presents its findings on January 31 and will give 30 days for management to respond.
Removing the two from the board would address mounting shareholder complaints about a lack of results as well as partly answer concerns that the CEOs were determined to hold on to power at all costs. Rumors have circulated that, as chairmen, Balsillie and Lazaridis dominate the agenda and allow few if any serious challenges to their strategy. As CEOs, they can still choose to override the board, but they could now be held to account and possibly ousted issues came to a head.
The determination to hold on has been chastized given the rapid declines that defined RIM in 2011. BlackBerry market share shrunk the entire year, and the insistence on rushing the PlayBook to market without native e-mail led to lower and lower shipments and drastic price cuts. Analysts have chastised RIM, and often its CEOs specifically, of being repeatedly over-optimistic for guidance, insisting that performance would improve only to provide low results and delay key products.
Once promised for early 2012, the BlackBerry 10 platform deemed critical to reviving RIM's smartphone hopes won't ship until late this year, by which point new iPhones and Android devices may neuter some of its advantages.