Blackberry's Lazaridis quits chief executive role

Research In Motion's Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie have bowed to investor pressure and resigned as co chief executives, handing the top job to an insider with four years at the struggling BlackBerry maker.

Thorsten Heins, a former Siemens AG executive who has risen steadily through RIM's upper management ranks since joining the Canadian company in late 2007, took over as CEO on Saturday, RIM said on Sunday.

The shift ends the two-decade long partnership of Lazaridis and Balsillie atop a once-pioneering technology company that now struggles against Apple and Google.

With RIM's share price plummeting to eight-year lows, a flurry of speculation that RIM was up for sale has enveloped the company in recent months. But investors have pointed to the domineering presence of Lazaridis and Balsillie as one reason a sale would prove difficult.

Activist investors have clamoured in recent months for a new, "transformational" leader who could revitalize RIM's product line and resuscitate its once cutting-edge image. It remains to be seen whether RIM has found such a leader in Heins, analysts said.

"It's the first positive thing that they have done in months," said Charter Equity analyst Ed Snyder, even as he expressed caution over the choice of Heins, a long-time lieutenant of Lazaridis and Balsillie. "My feeling is that it's a figure-head change."