Shares slump on shake-up at BlackBerry

BLACKBERRY maker Research in Motion (RIM) saw its shares plunge over seven per cent to C$15.98 in yesterday’s trading after the mobile phone brand announced a change in leadership late on Sunday.

Thorsten Heins took to the throne yesterday, replacing co-chief executives Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, who have nurtured the company since its birth in 1984.

Balsillie continues to sit on RIM’s board while Lazaridis was appointed to vice-chair.

After racking up 20 years at Siemens, Heins joined RIM as senior vice president for hardware engineering in December 2007 before being promoted to chief operating officer for product and sales in August.

Investors have been calling on the tech giant to reassess its management after a turbulent few years, which have seen company shares drop to a fraction of the almost C$150 high they reached in mid-2008.

RIM’s quarterly revenues dropped for the first time in nine years in early 2011, prompting the company to axe over ten per cent of its work force – a total of 2,000 jobs – in July.

The company then suffered embarrassment when the BlackBerry service blacked out for four days in October.

Heins said: “RIM has undergone and is still completing a major transformation, having gone over the last ten years from annual revenues of C$294m to just under C$20bn.

“Like all companies of that scale, you hit a few bumps in the road here and there, but it is key that we learn from those mistakes.”

The new BlackBerry boss said the company would focus on its execution process and be “more marketing driven and consumer oriented”.

The company is looking for a new chief marketer and is expected to release several new products this year.

TIME LINE | RESEARCH IN MOTION

February 1985 Mike Lazaridis founds a tech start-up in Ontario, Canada.

1992 Jim Balsillie joins RIM as co-chief executive, investing $250,000.

1995 Working Ventures Canadian Fund invests C$5m in developing RIM’s two-way pager.

October 1997 RIM floats on the Toronto Stock Exchange, raising over $115m.

1999 The BlackBerry 850 launches in Germany and company shares are listed on Nasdaq, raising another $250m.

2003 The first BlackBerry smartphone is released.

October 2007 BlackBerry reaches 10m users.
June 2010 RIM acquires QNX, the operating system now used in the PlayBook, for C$200m.

April 2011 RIM launches the PlayBook tablet, which fails to impress critics.

16 June 2011 RIM’s quarterly revenue declines for the first time in almost a decade.

10-13 October 2011 Due to a global RIM service outage, millions of BlackBerry users are stranded without basic smartphone functions.

29 November 2011 RIM offers to manage rival devices in recognition of its waning share of the corporate market.

15 December 2011 Co-chief executives Lazaridis and Balsillie agree to receive a salary of $1 each.