RIM ready to name new chairman, report says

Under heavy investor fire, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie could give up their posts as co-chairmen to make way for an independent director.

Research In Motion may be gearing up for an overhaul in its leadership.

RIM co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie

Co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie are preparing to relinquish their titles as co-chairmen, possibly giving way to independent director Barbara Stymiest, according to a report by the Financial Post. Stymiest is the leading candidate to replace the two, the Post said, citing anonymous sources.

RIM said in a statement that a committee of independent directors was reviewing the company's governance structure, and would report its findings by January 31. It added the committee is on track to meet this target, and that the board would have 30 days to publicly respond. The company didn't comment on Stymiest being named a favorite to take over as the chairmanship.

Such a move would come after several investor calls for a change within the beleaguered company, which has seen its market share erode and stock price plunge after several critical miscues in the past year. During the last call, Lazaridis and Balsillie sounded more contrite than usual, taking their annual salary down to $1 and vowing to right the ship while asking for some patience.

But investor patience has been wearing thin, and nearly hit its breaking point when the executives disclosed that the first next-generation BlackBerry 10 smartphone wouldn't hit the market until late 2012 .

While some investors have been calling for a complete ouster of Balsillie and Lazaridis, the move to replace them as co-chairmen would help assuage some concerns that the two have too much control over the company. The Post is reporting that a committee of seven independent directors is looking at the board's structure, including the benefits of having an independent chairman and the business need for Balsillie and Lazaridis to have significant roles on the board.

The two are hard to move because they are the second and third largest shareholders in the company, with a combined 12 percent of outstanding shares.

Lazaridis and Balsillie have led the company during a sharp slowdown in growth this year, with RIM's latest wave of BlackBerry smartphones barely making a dent in a market that also includes the iPhone 4S and a wave of Android smartphones. Its attempt to breach the tablet market with the PlayBook also stumbled early. The company has cut the price of all of its PlayBooks--including the higher end 64GB model--to $299 .

About the author

Roger Cheng is the executive editor in charge of breaking news for CNET News. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade. He's a devoted Trojan alum and Los Angeles Lakers fan.

 

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