RIM could soon split the roles of CEO and chairman in a bid to reverse its fortunes. Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie are currently co-CEOs and co-chairmen at the embattled Canadian handset manufacturer, but that could change following an internal review of its board structure.
The two could be ousted from their co-chairmen roles by Barbara Stymiest, an independent director who joined RIM’s board in 2007. She is reported to be the leading candidate to replace Balsillie and Lazaridis according to Canadian newspaper Financial Post, which cited “sources familiar with events”.
The Blackberry maker had agreed to the internal review last year in order to avoid a shareholder revolt, after a troublesome 2011, in which the firm saw its net income sink by almost three quarters to just $265m in the third quarter of 2011. The firm was also forced to announce that its BlackBerry 10 devices will be delayed until the latter part of 2012, rather than the first quarter of the year, as was originally planned, and a high profile outage in October saw millions of BlackBerry users around the world experience a service disruption, preventing them from using the browser or BBM messaging platform.
RIM also announced that it will lay off 2,000 staff as part of the cost-cutting programme and one shareholder, Jaguar Financial, a Canadian merchant bank that holds shares in the firm, twice called on the firm to undergo a shake-up, even suggesting that it should be acquired by another company.
The year was so forgettable that co-CEOs Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie announced that they will pay themselves salaries of just $1 each, seemingly in an admission of a poor performance throughout the year.
Nick Dillon, analyst at Ovum, believes that regardless of the outcome of the internal review, the Blackberry maker will need to make major changes in 2012 in order to keep pace with competitors.
“Whether RIM decides to change its management team or not, what is clear is that the company needs to accelerate its pace of change, both in bringing its new BlackBerry 10 platform to market, but also in increasing the attractiveness of its offering through new services such as BBM Music,” he said. “If the company is unable to speed up its technology and product development it risks being left further behind by its rivals.”
The internal review is due to be completed by the end of January 2012, and a decision will be announced by the end of February.