Jim Balsillie, Mike Lazaridis, RIM's Co-CEOs, May Be Headed Out The Door As Pressure On BlackBerry Maker Mounts

The Huffington Post Canada   First Posted: 01/03/12 10:25 AM ET Updated: 01/03/12 05:04 PM ET

UPDATE: Research In Motion stock jumped 6 per cent Thursday as investors took in reports the company is planning to shake up its top management. RIM shares, which had traded at below $15 on Monday, jumped 85 cents to trade at $15.65 by late morning, the Canadian Press reported.

Research In Motion is weighing the possibility of replacing its co-chairmen, as the company's investors grow more vocal in demanding a change to the company's waning fortunes.

According to a report in the Financial Post, RIM board member Barbara Stymiest is the likeliest candidate to replace the co-CEO duo of Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis as chairman of the company. Stymiest had previously headed up the TSX Group and had worked as chief financial officer at RBC.

Balsillie and Lazaridis currently share the titles of chairman and CEO.

RIM's board will release the report recommending a change at the top at the end of January, at which time Balsillie and Lazaridis will have 30 days to respond, the Post reported.

The unconfirmed report comes as one of the company's largest investors, Jaguar Financial, called for RIM to sell off its BlackBerry handset unit.

"RIM, in our opinion, has lost it," Jaguar chief Vic Alboini told BBC News. "The party’s over, we believe, in terms of trying to design that cool technologically-savvy smartphone. Microsoft has over $50 billion in cash. RIM has $1.5 billion. There is no way they are going to compete."

RIM recently delayed the launch of its new line of BlackBerry smartphones to the second half of this year. The rumoured BlackBerry London suggests the company has not abandoned hope of regaining its position as a smartphone innovator -- something Alboini says RIM should give up on.

The BlackBerry "has been an icon over the years and the management team itself has been an icon in Canada," Alboini said. "But that's the legacy, that's done."

RIM's share price plunged from nearly $60 last spring to under $15 at the beginning of 2012. The company continues to lose market share in the U.S., falling to fourth place in handset sales, behind Samsung, LG and Apple, although it remains strong in some developing countries.

Alboini said the company's most valuable asset was the 75 million BlackBerry subscribers who rely on the company's communications network. He said the company should make its network compatible with other, more dominant smartphone systems, particularly Android. RIM has made some efforts in that direction with its next-generation operating system, which is expected to be compatible with Android and other platforms.

"Frankly the co-CEOs have had their minds on other matters, like buying a hockey team, and you've got to focus on the business," Alboini said. "We think it's over and they should sell the handset business."

Jaguar Financial owns just under 10 per cent of RIM, making it one of the company's largest shareholders. No one owns a stake greater than 10 per cent.

Alboini has been vocal in the past about a shake-up in the company's management.

RIM has made a number of product innovations over the past year to shore up its flagging fortunes, none of which have gained much traction. The largest product release was the PlayBook, which recorded surprisingly disappointing sales until the company deeply discounted the tablet computer's price.

While most market observers have been downbeat on the Waterloo, Ont.-based company, some have been saying that with stock prices so low, now may be the time to buy.

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