Former Research In Motion co-chief executive Jim Balsillie sought a radical shift in strategy before he stepped down, Reuters reported on Friday. Citing two unnamed sources, the publication claims Balsillie wanted to allow wireless companies in North America and Europe to use RIM’s proprietary network for services on non-BlackBerry devices. The plan would help carriers entice customers to upgrade from feature phones to smartphones and allow them to offer inexpensive data plans that were limited to social media and instant messaging via the company’s BlackBerry Messenger service. Despite RIM’s network bringing in nearly $1 billion each quarter, the plan was vetoed, leading to Balsillie’s resignation soon after he stepped down as co-CEO. The Blackberry-maker will instead focus more on its next-generation BlackBerry 10-powered smartphones, and on regaining enterprise momentum. More →
Research In Motion hasn’t just had a difficult time innovating since the iPhone was first introduced, the company has had trouble innovating ever since its product started to morph into something more than a simple email messaging device. RIM has always been behind the curve with regard to technology in some ways. It was still making devices with black and white displays when other manufacturers were launching devices with vibrant full-color screens. RIM was one of the last manufacturers to launch an EDGE device and it was also one of the last manufacturers to include a camera in its devices. The vendor consistently offered devices without GPS or Wi-Fi, and without a functional web browser. The problem with Research In Motion is not just that the company has failed to adapt or plan for the future, it’s that RIM hasn’t been able to accurately predict not only what the mobile landscape was going to look like down the road, but also what its customers want in a BlackBerry handset. Unfortunately, judging from what I’ve seen so far, I don’t see much changing with new CEO Thorsten Heins. More →
In light of increased pressure from shareholders, Research In Motion is preparing to replace current co-chairmen of the board Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie. The Financial Post on Tuesday reported that RIM will soon shake up its corporate structure, likely removing both company co-founders from their current board seats. The pair would remain co-CEOs and a new single chairman would be appointed in their place. According to the Financial Posts’s unnamed sources, independent director and RIM board member Barbara Stymiest is currently the front-runner to replace Lazaridis and Balsillie. In response to increased shareholder unrest, RIM agreed this past summer to assemble a committee that would investigate splitting the co-CEO and co-chairmen roles. Stymiest is a member of the committee carrying out the investigation, and she has been a member of RIM’s board of directors since 2007. RIM’s stock was up 2% on the rumor in pre-market trading. More →
During RIM’s second-quarter earnings call, co-CEO Jim Balsillie noted that the company plans to offer price cuts on the not-so-popular BlackBerry PlayBook in the form of rebates, and an incentive program for enterprise sales. Additionally, Balsillie mentioned that there will be a major software update for the PlayBook coming soon. RIM reported during its earnings call on Thursday that it only sold 200,000 BlackBerry PlayBook tablets into channels during its August quarter, after having shipped 500,000 units in the fiscal first quarter. Wall Street was expecting PlayBook shipments to total 700,000 units in the quarter.
Research In Motion will lay off 2,000 of its employees, or about 10% of its total workforce, as part of a cost optimization program. “The workforce reduction is believed to be a prudent and necessary step for the long term success of the company and it follows an extended period of rapid growth within the company whereby the workforce had nearly quadrupled in the last five years alone,” the company said in a statement. The BlackBerry maker is also reorganizing several of its top management positions. RIM’s company statement does not mention any changes to the Co-CEO and Co-Chairman roles held by Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie. RIM recently lost several executives, including the Vice President of digital marketing and media and the BlackBerry PlayBook senior product manager, to competitors including Samsung. Read on for the full press release. More →
Research In Motion is in the midst of a major transition in every sense of the word. Publicly, the company is portraying a very defensive image — one that is very dismissive, as if RIM is profitable and class-leading, and the media is out of line to criticize its business, as are investors. Internally, however, there’s a different story to be told. It’s a story filled with attitude, cockiness, heated arguments among the executive team and Co-CEOs, and paranoia. We’ve spoken to multiple ex-RIM executives at length about their experiences with the company over the past few years. While most speak highly of RIM and their time in Waterloo, they also each left the company due mainly to RIM’s lack of vision and leadership. Read on for an exclusive inside look at a company teetering on the edge between greatness and collapse. More →
RIM has six months to prove a real business need for its Co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie to retain their roles as Co-Chairmen of the Board, otherwise Northwest & Ethical Investments LP will take action. “We wanted to give them a chance to prove that there is an actual business necessity,” Jennifer Coulson, manager of corporate engagement at Northwest & Ethical, told Bloomberg at Tuesday’s RIM shareholder meeting. NEI threatened last month to file a motion to have RIM’s Co-CEOs removed from their roles has Board heads, but the the firm agreed not to proceed with its motion when RIM said it would assemble a committee of independent directors to investigate the matter and make recommendations. Proxy advisor Glass Lewis & Co. would later accuse RIM of using stall tactics to delay the decision, but NEI appears content with the actions RIM is taking, so says its decision to give RIM six months to plead its case. Thus far, RIM’s only real argument in favor of allowing Lazaridis and Balsillie to keep their joint roles has been that their Chairmen titles help the pair generate business overseas. Shares of RIM stock have declined in value by nearly 60% over the past 12 months. More →
Despite agreeing to address concerns over the shared Co-CEO and Co-Chariman roles held by Research In Motion bosses Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, the company again finds itself in hot water after a report from proxy advisor Glass Lewis & Co. was obtained by Bloomberg on Thursday. RIM announced in June that it would assemble a committee of independent directors to study the CEO and board roles, and then make recommendations as to whether or not the company should consider splitting the CEO and Chairman roles Balsillie and Lazaridis each currently hold. In its report, Glass Lewis wrote that the move was merely a stall tactic used to get Northwest & Ethical Investments LP to withdraw a motion it intended to put forward at RIM’s July shareholder meeting. “The appointment of independent board leadership does not require further study, but rather concrete action,” Glass Lewis analysts noted in their report. “While we commend the board for actively engaging with NEI in an attempt to reach a mutually agreeable solution, we are underwhelmed with the board’s continued avoidance of a commitment to appoint an independent chairman.” More →
BGR published an open letter to Research In Motion yesterday from an anonymous high-level RIM executive who begged for senior management to take notice of all of the issues within RIM. The exec explained how the company should make some changes to focus on the talent and potential within RIM, and also to focus on end users instead of carriers. After we published the article, RIM responded. It wasn’t pretty, and it really didn’t address a single point that was made by the original plea. It wasn’t just RIM that responded, however — we received dozens of emails from current and former RIM employees detailing their stories, and essentially all agreeing with the open letter that was published on BGR. Among the correspondence were several new “open letters” written by RIM employees, and the BGR team has gone through them at length. There were nearly a dozen gems amid the emails we received, and while we may address various highlights in the coming weeks, we can’t publish them all at this time. We thank each and every person who took the time to email us with their thoughts, but there were two in particular that stood out from the crowd. One is from a former RIM employee and the other is from a current employee, and both sources have been vetted. The full, unedited letters can be read after the break. More →
Research In Motion on Thursday said it would consider splitting its Chief Executive and Chairman roles ahead of its annual shareholder meeting next month. Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis currently each occupy both roles, and the pair have been the targets of much criticism from shareholders, analysts and the media since RIM’s earnings call earlier this month. The company said in a statement that it would assemble a committee of independent directors to study the CEO and board roles, and then make recommendations. The news follows an anonymous plea made by a senior RIM executive that was published exclusively by BGR earlier on Thursday. RIM responded by stating that the company is “in a solid business and financial position to tackle the opportunities ahead,” and that it “is more committed than ever to serving its loyal customers and partners around the world.” RIM’s full press release follows below. More →
RIM on Thursday released its response to an open letter published exclusively by BGR. The letter, which was written by a senior RIM executive, pleads with the company’s upper management to make some drastic changes if it is to regain the mind share and market share it has lost in recent years. After questioning the authenticity of the letter — and we assure you, it is indeed genuine and its author has been vetted — RIM said the company is “fully aware of and aggressively addressing both the company’s challenges and its opportunities.” The response goes on to take an extremely defensive stance, listing various reasons that RIM is still in a strong position. The company also says its management is taking its current challenges seriously during this transitional period. “The company is thankfully in a solid business and financial position to tackle the opportunities ahead with a solid balance sheet (nearly $3 billion in cash and no debt), strong profitability (RIM’s net income last quarter was $695 million) and substantial international growth (international revenue in Q1 grew 67% over the same quarter last year). In fact, while growth has slowed in the US, RIM still shipped 13.2 million BlackBerry smartphones last quarter (which is about 100 smartphones per minute, 24 hours per day) and RIM is more committed than ever to serving its loyal customers and partners around the world,” the response concludes. RIM’s statement can be read below in its entirety.
There’s no question Research In Motion is in the midst of a major transitional period. The company is planning to launch a brand new product line based on a brand new operating system within the next 12 months, and even though the first device born out of RIM’s new QNX OS was impressive in some ways, it was incomplete. There still is a chance for RIM to deliver some really interesting competitive products, but time is quickly running out, as we have written time and time again. The thing is, RIM has always been a company controlled by two people — Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis. For all the things that have worked, they have missed the boat countless times and we’re now seeing the results.
We have received an open letter to Mike and Jim from a high-level RIM employee (whose identity we have verified), and in an amazingly honest and passionate plea, this letter gives fascinating insights into what RIM must fix, and fast. RIM did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Read the open letter in its entirety after the break.
P.S. If you’re an employee of RIM and want to send us your thoughts and feelings on the company, you can send them to us via email or leave a comment below.
UPDATE: Following this post, RIM issued an official response to the letter below. The company’s full response can be viewed here.
Shares of RIM stock have taken a beating since the company announced devastating first-quarter earnings last Thursday. The Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry maker missed Wall Street’s first-quarter consensus, it lowered its full-year guidance, it announced workforce reductions, it confirmed product delays and investors went running for the door as did a top executive. Since the earnings release last week, RIM’s stock has fallen more than 25%. This is bad news for every RIM investor, but two in particular must be especially upset. RIM Co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie collectively own more than 10% of the company, a stake that helped each man achieve billionaire status. Last year, Lazaridis was ranked the world’s 651st richest man by Forbes with a net worth of $1.9 billion, and Balsillie was No. 692 on the list with a net worth of $1.8 billion. Fast forward to today, and neither man can call himself a billionaire any longer. The cheifs’ stake in the company is still worth more than $1 billion combined, but separately, their net worths are now just roughly $800 million a piece. We doubt the employees set to be laid off in the coming weeks and months will shed any tears for the Co-CEOs’ loss, but it’s just another piece of a puzzle that continues to fall apart. Some analysts believe RIM is hardly out for the count, however, and we agree that the company has a bit of fight left in it. If Balsillie and Lazaridis hope to rejoin the billionaire club, it’s time to put those gloves on and start swinging. More →