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WSJ: Pressure intensifying on RIM's co-CEOs

WSJ: Pressure intensifying on RIM's co-CEOs


Investor pressure on RIM to change leadership on the board is intensifying, with anonymous sources depicting its board of directors as under the sway of Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie.

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RIM is just over a month away from the expected release of an "independent committee" report on whether or not the co-CEO team of Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis is a viable structure for the future, and the pressure appears to be intensifying on the pair. A report at The Wall Street Journal cites anonymous sources who contend that RIM's board is not properly governing the company, instead deferring to Balsillie and Lazaridis in too many instances. The source says that in board meetings, Jim Balsillie is "the most forceful presence in the room by far."

The pressure is no surprise at all given that the company just announced that it wouldn't be releasing smartphones based on the new BlackBerry 10 operating system until late 2012, to say nothing of what might be called hubris when it comes to the overall management of the company (of which, the recent BBX trademark imbroglio and the pending BBM trademark lawsuit are just two recent examples). Whether change at the top is likely is also an open question. Lazaridis and Balsillie have managed to stave off investor unhappiness before, but more importantly have strenuously defended themselves against both public and anonymous criticism in such a way that suggests neither intends to go quietly. RIM's board also backed the idea of letting the co-CEOs try to launch new phones rather than sell to Amazon, so it seems as though they still have plenty of support there.

Finally, if a management change comes, it may simply be too late — RIM is on a path that was set when it decided to go with QNX and dedicate resources to the BlackBerry PlayBook. It's questionable whether an influx of new leadership will be able to accelerate the engineering necessary to get BlackBerry 10 out the door. For better or worse, RIM as it stands today is built in Lazaridis' and Balsillie's image. Even if there is a shake-up at the top, it's going to keep that image for a long time.