When BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins, a year on the job, introduced the BlackBerry Z10 and its longtime-coming new platform, BlackBerry 10, at a New York City event Jan. 30, former Research In Motion founder and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis was sitting front and center.
“Thank you so much for guiding us into the future,” Heins told Lazaridis, who looked emotional but pleased and after a good amount of applause stood and waved a quick hello to the crowd.
Not present, and not mentioned, was the yin to the Lazaridis-era yang, former RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie.
Offering a bit of color to the story, if not just some interesting trivia, The New York Times reported Feb. 14 that a Valentine’s Day filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission revealed that as of the end of December, Balsillie—who once owned up to 33 percent of the company—didn’t own of a single share of BlackBerry.
(During the Jan. 30 event, Heins announced that the company had officially changed its name from Research In Motion to BlackBerry.)
In a separate filing the same day, Lazaridis was shown to still own a 5.7 percent share of BlackBerry’s stock.
The BlackBerry brand has taken a beating over the last few years as it has struggled to compete against first the Apple iPhone and then Android-running device—devices it wrote off as consumer diversions with no chance of penetrating their hard-won enterprise domain. That theory soon proved false, and while Balsillie and Lazaridis hatched plans for a QNX-based platform, suffered delays and failed to produce devices with as much aesthetic pizazz as its rivals’ offerings, the company’s market share plummeted.
On Jan. 22, 2012, Lazaridis and Balsillie announced they were stepping aside—Lazaridis became vice president of RIM’s board and chair of the board’s Innovation Committee, and Balsillie remained a member of the board—and named Chief Operating Officer Thorsten Heins RIM’s new CEO.
Lazaridis, in a statement, said that Heins had the “relevant industry experience and skills to take the company forward” and that he was impressed by Heins’ leadership at both RIM and Siemens.
“I am so confident in RIM’s future,” he added, “that I intend to purchase an additional $50 million of the company’s shares, as permitted, in the open market.”
Likely few envied Heins for the role he took on. He, too, was forced to announce a delay to the new platform in progress, and had to defend the company against public assertions that it was “in a death spiral” and “at death’s door.” Though at the BlackBerry 10 launch event, Heins called the position “one of the best opportunities I’d seen in my career” and his first year on the job one the “most rewarding.”
While it remains to be seen whether BlackBerry 10 will, as hoped, save the company—and reward Lazaridis for his loyalty—it has received overwhelmingly positive reviews.
The Times reported that it was able to get a hold of Kris Thompson, a longtime BlackBerry analyst at National Bank Financial. When asked his thoughts about Balsillie selling his shares, Thompson replied, “Who cares?”