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CEOs who founded Blackberry maker RIM to step down

The once iconic company has struggled to compete with innovations such as Google’s Android and Apple’s iPhone in recent years.

Balsillie (L) and Lazaridis (R) in 2009.
Balsillie (L) and Lazaridis (R) in 2009.
Image: Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press/Press Association Images

BLACKBERRY MAKERS RESEARCH in Motion’s co-CEOs, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, announced yesterday they are stepping down from the once-iconic company that has struggled to compete in recent years.

The pair who founded RIM will be replaced by Thorsten Heins, a chief operating officer who joined RIM four years ago from Siemens AG, RIM said.

Balsillie and Lazaridis have headed Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM together for the past two decades.

“There comes a time in the growth of every successful company when the founders recognize the need to pass the baton to new leadership. Jim and I went to the board and told them that we thought that time was now,” Lazaridis said in a statement.

The Canadian company has suffered a series of setbacks and has lost tens of billions in market value. A company that was worth more than $70 billion a few years ago now has a market value of $8.9 billion.

Falling consumer support

RIM said last month that new phones deemed critical to the company’s future will be delayed until late 2012.

And its PlayBook tablet, RIM’s answer to the Apple iPad, failed to gain consumer support, forcing the company to give it deep discounts to move the devices off store shelves.

A widespread outage also frustrated tens of millions of BlackBerry users in October.

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Lazaridis will take on a new role as vice chairman of RIM’s board and chairman of the board’s new innovation committee. Balsillie remains a member of the board.

“I agree this is the right time to pass the baton to new leadership, and I have complete confidence in Thorsten, the management team and the company,” Balsillie said in the statement. “I remain a significant shareholder and a director and, of course, they will have my full support.”

Previously: Blackberry’s new products target dominance of iPhone and Android

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