Time for them to go

Much in all as it pains me to say this, it’s time for Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie to step aside at Research In Motion. After almost twenty years as co-CEOs, the world record long ago set, the company needs new leadership. The offer by Mike and Jim to reduce their salaries to $1 a year is bold but does not speak to the issues involved.

Others need to participate in the solution. As share price plummeted 80 per cent this year, institutional investors have been unusually quiet. A modest revolt at the time of the annual meeting was snuffed out with the establishment of a committee. Given the lack of any obvious activity, the board must have been equally silent. In addition to Mike and Jim on the board there are seven outside directors including some big names: Barb Stymiest, former head of the TSX, and Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman Business School, among others.The directors are either quiesecent or happy and neither of those is a good strategy going forward given the successive blows of the last few months.

RIM blames marketing but that’s not the problem, it’s the products. RIM should dump PlayBook; it’s become a distraction that’s never going to gain traction. Fix the troubled 9900. Scale back the next round of new products so that prospective buyers don’t have to wait another year for chip development.

Most importantly, RIM needs to appoint a new team. Here’s my list: John Wetmore, a RIM director since 2007 and former CEO of IBM Canada, becomes Chief Executive Officer. Patrick Spence, who joined as a co-op student and is now managing director in London, becomes Chief Operating Officer. David Kerr, a RIM director and former Chairman and CEO of Falconbridge becomes Chairman of the Board. As a result, John Richardson, current lead director, can stand down since there’s no longer a need for that role.

Lots of bright people bubbling with new ideas remain in the ranks at RIM but the firm has lost its focus. Only a major shakeup stands a chance of tapping those strengths again and regaining the corporate lustre that previously made Canadians so proud.

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