By Chris Velazco
As RIM (RIMM) navigates some particularly rough seas, it appears as though the company may soon kick-off a good old-fashioned corporate governance shakeup in order to please their shareholders. Although they’ll retain their positions as co-CEOs, the Financial Post reports that RIM’s Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie may soon be ousted from their positions as chairmen of the board.
The sordid tale began this past summer, when shareholder Northwest & Ethical Investments LP proposed that the CEO and chairman positions should be split citing the need for “increased board oversight.”
RIM was quick to answer at the time by saying that the chairman position helped Lazaridis and Balsillie generate business for the company. Northwest & Ethical retracted their proposal, on the condition that RIM could have six months to prove that letting the co-CEOs keep their titles as chairmen would benefit the business.
Time is quickly running out, and if the FP’s sources are to be believed, there really isn’t reason for things to stay the way they are. As a result, RIM is reportedly eyeing independent director Barbara Stymiest to take over as chairperson of the board, but we may have to wait until January 31 before anything becomes official.
That initial proposal must feel like an eternity away for RIM’s top brass, as the company has suffered crisis after crisis since then. Anemic PlayBook sales, a world-wide service outage, and a pair of drunk (and possibly superhuman) executives raising hell on a plane are just a few of the things that the company has had to weather recently, which could explain why Lazaridis and Balsillie may not be putting up much of a fight.
They’ve already offered up their joint mea culpa by slashing their salaries down to $1/year, so relinquishing their chairmen roles could be their next step in appeasing the shareholders. It seems to be working, at least temporarily — at time of writing, RIM’s stock price has jumped 8.5% since the market opened.
The bigger question that this whole situation raises is how exactly this affects RIM’s future. Both men will retain their roles as co-CEOs unless something terribly drastic happens, and hopefully the shakeup is enough to shock the company into trying something new. Even so, RIM’s foreseeable future is looking dicey — the company’s first BlackBerry 10 devices have already been pushed later into 2012 than expected, and PlayBook price tags are being slashed left and right in an effort to move product. Lazaridis and Balsillie don’t seem to be men who like sweeping change, but here’s hoping a change in corporate structure will have them making some bold new plays.