Research in Motion (RIM) founder and CEO Mike Lazaridis and co-CEO Jim Balsillie have left the respective roles at the firm, with former COO Thorsten Heins taking the new position of chairman at the beleaguered smartphone maker.
The move to replace Lazaridis and Balsillie was thought to have been initiated by shareholders, who had become concerned at the Canadian company's plight in recent times. Despite the news, both executives will be kept on the RIM payroll, with Lazaridis dropping down to vice chairman, and Balsillie remaining a member of the board, albeit one without operational responsibility.
"There comes a time in the growth of every successful company when the founders recognize the need to pass the baton to new leadership," said Lazaridis, at a press conference at RIM's headquarters in Waterloo, Canada. "Jim and I went to the board and told them that we thought that time was now."
Heins is already attempting to make his mark on the company, and told company executives on a conference call today that he wants the firm to become better at marketing, as well as more 'consumer-orientated'.
Despite this, Heins doesn't appear to be desperate the change the company's strategy anytime soon. "Eighteen months ago Mike and Jim took a bold step when we had to make a major decision around our future platform, and they purchased QNX to shepherd the transformation of the BlackBerry platform for the next decade," said Heins. "Right now, with PlayBook 2.0 coming out in February, we are more confident than ever that this was the right path to go."
RIM suffered something of a catastrophic 2011. The group's smartphones lost market share to the increasingly popular iPhone, and also suffered a long-lasting service outage, halfway through the year. The firm's first tablet, the PlayBook, fared little better, and was the subject of poor sales and software delays.
There have also been numerous rumours that RIM would be sold off, with Samsung and IBM said to be among the interested investors.