New Blackberry boss says no 'seismic change' needed; shares plummet

Stepping into the spotlight: COO-turned-CEO Thorsten Heins (54)
BlackBuried: Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis

New RIM chief executive Thorsten Heins has disappointed investors during his first conference call by saying no 'seismic change' is necessary.

Mr Heins said he was confident of the strategic path set by his predecessors Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, who resigned as co-CEO and co-chairmen yesterday.

The new chief executive also ruled out breaking up the company. He said he was open to licensing deals - the strategy his Mssrs Balsillie and Lazaridis have been attempting to pursue.

Shareholders hoped for a major shake-up. But Mr Heins confined himself to incremental tweaks, conceding only that there was room for the company to improve its smartphone marketing, and product roll-out - an area where the company has suffered logistical delays.

The troubled BlackBerry maker's shares (NAS:RIMM), already catastrophically down from their 52-week high of $US70.54, fell more than 8% in the wake of Mr Heins conference call to below $US16.

BlackBerry maker's co-leaders in co-resignation
Jan 23:
The co-chief executives of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) will make a co-resignation tomorrow, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis - who shared the CEO position, and were also joint chairmen - will relinquish their roles tomorrow in a shake-up long-demanded by angry shareholders - but the pair will keep a few hooks in the company they have controlled for 20 years.

The pair will be replaced by RIM chief operating officer Thorsten Heins, described by the Journal as a little-known insider.

RIM's shares (NAS:RIMM), which closed last week at $US17, down from their 52-week high of $US70.54, have suffered as the Canadian company - once the undisputed king of smartphones - has bled market share to Apple's iPhone and handsets from Samsung, Motorola, Sony and others running Google's Android software.

Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis repeatedly said they were not interested in selling RIM. The Journal said their continued presence was seen as an obstacle to a possible sale.

Investors may not be completely mollified, however. Balsillie and Lazaridis will stay on as directors, and retain large holdings in the company.

Two years ago, BlackBerry's smartphone market share stood above 50% in most surveys. Today, many surveys put it under 10%. 

RIM was slow to release touchscreen models. And although its BlackBerry platform arguably still enjoys advantages in areas like security, data efficiency and battery life, iPhone and Androids now offer push email, and other extra-cost BlackBerry features, for free.

The company has pledged Google Android app support for its slow-selling, heavily discounted BlackBerry Playbook tablet, but the promised move is now months overdue.

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6 Comments & Questions

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Well that one came out of left field for me. Hopefully RIM will start heading back up in the right direction. Under the previous leadership it wasn't all bad but a shade too conservative. And old fashioned for me. Must get into the same gear as Motorola,HTC,Samsung or perish and RIM is too good for that. Fight on RIM.

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RIM's only chance of long term survival in an incredibly tough smartphone market is full acquisition by a market leader, and removal of RIM's entire board. How Messrs. Balsillie and Lazaridis were retained is mind blowing. I have a desire to see this Company survive but it needs radical change and fast.

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Bye Blackberry.

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@Thorsten Heins - Sounds like you are a puppet of Jim & Mike. Or muppet.

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Sounds like the captain of the Rena saying its ok as they almost missed the reef.

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