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RIM co-CEOs throw in the towel, COO becomes new CEO

Research In Motion, maker of BlackBerry smartphones, released a statement today announcing that co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie have stepped down in a management shuffle.

As a result of mounting pressure by shareholders who watched RIM’s stock price tumble 75% last year, eventually falling below book value, RIM announced that Lazaridis who founded RIM in 1984 will become vice chairman, while Balsillie will continue to sit on the board forgoing any operational roles.

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Chief operating officer Thorsten Heins will take over as CEO starting today. Heins started at RIM in 2007, having previously worked at Siemens Communications. He took up the role of RIM’s COO in August of last year.

At a press conference held at RIM’s headquarters following the announcement 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. 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.”

Jim Balsillie remains a member of the Board. “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,” he said. “I remain a significant shareholder and a Director and, of course, they will have my full support.”

After taking up his new position, Heins stated: “As with any company that has grown as fast as we have, there have been inevitable growing pains. We have learned from those challenges and, I believe, we have and will become a stronger company as a result. Mike created a whole new way of communicating and I look forward to continuing our close collaboration.”

The position of chairman will now be held by Barbara Stymiest, who has been on the board of RIM since 2007, a post that Lazaridis and Balsillie shared.

RIM posted the video below introducing Heins as president and CEO on its BlackBerry YouTube account.

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