Business Watch: RIM shareholders not convinced by new CEO

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Dominic White says RIM insiders are not encouraged by the appointment of Thorsten Heins as CEO and are unhappy that he will continue with his predecessors’ strategy

How long will Thorsten Heins (pictured) remain in his new job as chief executive of the troubled BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM)?

It’s a question worth asking after investors reacted with a great big shrug to news that the company insider had been hired to replace long time co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie.

Shares in RIM fell more than six per cent on Monday as news of his promotion from CEO to the top job, filtered through even though the market had been pressuring Lazaridis and Balsillie to step aside for some time.

The protestors have got some of what they wanted, although Lazaridis is staying on as vice chairman and head of a new board committee on innovation and Balsillie will remain a director.

But Heins does not appear to be the thrusting change agent that embattled shareholders wanted.

They have already lost more than three quarters of their investment in the past 18 months as RIM has been outpaced in the smartphone market by Apple and devices based on Google’s Android platform.

So when Heins told them on a conference call that he will continue with his predecessors’ strategy and has no plans to make any “seismic” changes, they were decidedly unimpressed.

Takeover speculation

RIM has blown it in the very market it invented, and unless it does something radical, one of its rivals will: by buying the company.

One of my predictions for 2012 was that RIM would shake up its board but fail to satisfy investors before ultimately being taken over.

It wasn’t a particularly long shot when I made it and I’m doubling up my bets on the last part of that forecast coming true now.

The further share price fall early this week made a takeover even more likely: investors will be more willing to take a good offer if they don’t think the new management is up to the job.

A quick glance at the seven minute YouTube video ‘Meet Thorsten Heins the New President and CEO of Research In Motion’ tells you why they are not inspired.

By all accounts, the bespectacled and softly-spoken German is no Steve Jobs when it comes to communication.

He’s the consummate geek – a calm, collected, accomplished engineer rather than a marketing genius.

The 54-year-old spent 20 years at Siemens before joining RIM in December 2007. This is a man who clearly understands technology and is well respected.

But BlackBerrys need to become sexy again and, while the company has said it is hunting a marketing executive to help it with that, it doesn’t have much time, as comments from investors and analysts attest.

Full article in Mobile News issue 506 (January 30, 2012).

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