Change at top can’t come too soon

THERE will be few tears shed in the telecoms world if RIM’s Mike Lazaridis and James Balsillie are ousted from their roles as co-chairmen. The pair, who are also co-chief executives, have enjoyed a stranglehold over the company for too long, thanks to a bizarre boardroom structure that flies in the face of corporate governance standards.

It is an open secret that under the two men’s control RIM has been slow to react to criticism or advice from within its own ranks and from the all-important networks. For years now, executives at O2, Vodafone and Orange have privately complained that RIM simply isn’t up to scratch.

Compared to handsets like the Samsung Galaxy or Apple iPhone, the build quality of BlackBerrys is awful. Angry customers send them back much more often. These problems are nothing new; for at least three years, network operators have been trying to tell RIM, but their concerns were treated with rude derision.

Until recently, the big mobile operators decided that BlackBerry was too important a brand to fall out with. They put up with RIM’s dysfunctionality because they had to. But with more phones – and better ones – on the market, their patience is wearing thin.

Many expect Barbara Stymiest, currently an independent director of RIM, to take over the chairmanship. If she does, she should find a new chief executive to replace Lazaridis and Balsillie.

Over the last year, the company has lurched from disaster to disaster under their stewardship. The Blackberry outage has damaged the firm’s reputation permanently, while the “iPod killing” Playbook was anything but. Unsurprisingly, sales and market share have tanked. Change at the top can’t come soon enough.