updated 06:40 pm EST, Sun January 29, 2012
RIM had prepped Heins for possible CEO spot
RIM's departing co-chief Mike Lazaridis chose an unofficial exit interview this weekend to uncover the amount of preparation for new CEO Thorsten Heins. He explained to The Record that they had started succession plans years ago and that Heins had been kept in mind. He was a "star" already, but he had to prove his worth and take on more roles before he could take on the position.
Lazaridis downplayed the shareholder pressure to make a change as the main reason to leave and instead suggested it was a matter of timing relating to new hardware and the BlackBerry 10 launch later in the year. Whether or not the device strategy was accurate, an independent panel investigation was thought to have been leaning in favor of ousting the CEOs and may have forced the hand of Lazardis and his co-founder Jim Balsillie.
Still, he noted that there wasn't much point in creating an artificial limit as to who could become CEO. Executives wouldn't want to stay onboard if they didn't think they could move higher, he said.
In describing the act of leaving itself, Lazaridis added that leaving was "very hard" and "emotional," but also presented an opportunity. His children hadn't yet gone to university, so it gave him a chance to pay attention to his family that heavy work hadn't allowed.
He was partly softening the blow of exiting by buying an extra $50 million in shares. The rest of the company should be in good shape, he thought, since they had the talent and veteran leadership.
Whether or not Heins succeeds in Lazaridis' and Balsillie's place is still an uncertain prospect. BlackBerry 10 doesn't arrive until later in the year and gives roughly half a year where Apple and Google can possibly reign unchallenged. Heins has promised more marketing and to focus on upgrading existing users, although BlackBerry share has been draining quickly enough that there may be too few reachable owners.