RIM CEOs Lazaridis and Balsillie step down

blackberry-logoAfter a miserable 2011 in which Research In Motion (RIM) struggled with a myriad of issues, the company’s co-CEOs and co-chairmen, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, have stepped down.

In a statement released Sunday evening, Thorsten Heins was named as the new president and chief executive officer. Heins joined the Waterloo, Ontario-based company in 2007.

In the statement, Lazaridis said, “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.”

He continued, “With BlackBerry 7 now out, PlayBook 2.0 shipping in February and BlackBerry 10 expected to ship later this year, the company is entering a new phase, and we felt it was time for a new leader to take it through that phase and beyond. Jim, the Board and I all agreed that leader should be Thorsten Heins.”

On the decision to step down, Balsillie said, “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.”

Lazaridis and Balsillie will remain on the company’s board, while Lazaridis has become vice chair of RIM’s board and chair of the board’s new innovation committee.

RIM, once the leading player in the smartphone industry with its range of BlackBerry devices, has been struggling in recent years in the face of stiff competition from Apple’s iPhone and devices running Google’s Android mobile operating system.

The company’s move into the tablet market last year has also proved problematic, with its PlayBook device failing to catch on with consumers. And in October, BlackBerry users had to endure a four-day service blackout, forcing Lazaridis into making a personal video apology. More recently, RIM announced it was to delay the launch of its much-anticipated BlackBerry 10 operating system, another blow in its efforts to turn the company’s fortunes around.

Recent pressure from investors left Lazaridis and Balsillie with little choice but to step down. Now let’s see if a new person at the helm is enough to turn things around, or whether the company will continue to struggle in a market which it once led.

RIM was founded by Lazaridis in 1984, with Balsillie joining in 1992.