Plagued by a second day of service outages spanning four continents, Research In Motion's (RIM) management is facing a precarious time in the days ahead. In early September, investor and merchant bank Jaguar Financial released a statement saying it was raising support amongst BlackBerry partners for the sale of a portion of the company or some other method of maximizing shareholder value. With the recent global outages, it appears that Jaguar and other likeminded shareholders are building a case for immediate changes in the company.
The mobile carrier has taken a beating in recent years, losing ground to Apple and other, Android-based competitors. The once-mighty mobile giant saw an 80% decline in share prices from June 2008 to September 2011 and listed for a 52-week low of $19.29 per share on October 4th. Many blame the leadership and the unusual structural decision of maintaining two chief executives - Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsille - for the company's lack of performance over the last three years. The two co-CEOs are also the company's two largest shareholders, giving them significant influence over the decisions being made.
Vic Alboini, chairman and CEO of Jaguar Financial, has been particularly outspoken about what he views as necessary measures to secure shareholders' investment. In a recent press release, Alboini asserted his belief that the management structure is largely to blame for RIM's stagnant sales and loss of standing within the industry. Messrs. Balsillie and Lazaridis are first class entrepreneurs, but the current management arrangement with the Board impedes the Board's effectiveness, in turn impacting RIM's strategy, operations and performance, said Alboini. Albioni and Jaguar say that they now have the support of 8% of all of RIM's shareholders in calling for RIM to fix its governance problems and pursue the possibility of a sale, merger or division into separate public companies.
The push for a structural reconfiguration at the executive level comes at a time when RIM is already undergoing plenty of changes. The company has struggled to streamline its operations even as it works to complete a first-quarter launch of the new Colt smartphone based on its QNX operating system. In June, the RIM's foundering performance was the impetus for an open letter, supposedly written by an anonymous RIM employee, the contents of which can be found on BGR. The letter expresses frustration with the company's general lack of direction and quickly became a focal point of those seeking to pressure the company's board for reforms.
There's been an open letter from someone in the company that said 'We've lost confidence,' said Alboini in an interview with the e-Commerce Times. There are all kinds of blogs that support the open letter. If the open letter is in any way true, you need a new CEO, and not one of the two existing CEOs.
Back in July, RIM has said that holders of more than 90 percent of its voting shares had backed the re-election of a group of directors that included Lazaridis and Balsille. However, given this week's service blackouts and the pressure Jaguar and its confederates are placing on the board to asses alternative value-creating measures, it seems that it is not only the future of RIM's CEOs that is in question, but that of the company as well.