RIM Considering New Chairperson: Report

Research In Motion is considering a new chairperson to replace Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie as co-chairmen, according to a report.

Research In Motion could dismiss Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie as co-chairmen of their company's board, according to reports circulating widely online.

Barbara Stymiest is the figure being cited by Canadian publication the National Post as RIM's potential next chairperson. The newspaper, which attributed that information to unnamed sources, described her as "an independent director who joined RIM's board in 2007."

Whether she ends up taking the reins of RIM's board, analysts are already weighing in on whether she can help a company struggling to maintain its market share in the face of significant pressure from the likes of Google Android and Apple's iPhone.

"We would view such an announcement positively as we believe she will initiate a formal strategic review, possibly trim costs in the hardware business, and possibly announce additional partnerships," Peter Misek, an analyst with Jefferies & Co, wrote in a co-authored research note Jan. 4. "However, we continue to see an outright sale in the near-term as unlikely and see near-term results as challenged."

Stymiest currently serves as group head of strategy, treasury and corporate services for the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). According to Misek, she "is also often cited as a successor to RBC's current president and CEO, Gordon Nixon." That could complicate her role at RIM, should she become chairperson.

If she assumes that position at RIM, he added, Stymiest has some strategic options for righting the company. The aforementioned strategic review could lead to RIM agreeing to license its upcoming BlackBerry 10 operating system to handset makers such as Samsung. "This would help create a critical mass for the ecosystem and maintain RIM's monthly service revenue," Misek wrote. "Longer term, it possibly gets people hooked on the RIM ecosystem and may in fact allow them to sell more BB 10 handsets (if they are able to create compelling handsets)."

In the short term, such an alliance with other handset manufacturers would necessarily pressure RIM's own hardware business, which in turn could drive the company to restructure that particular division. In theory, the first devices running BlackBerry 10 will arrive on the market in the latter half of 2012. RIM is also prepping a major software update in February for its PlayBook tablet, which has suffered from anemic sales in comparison to Apple's iPad.

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