Thorsten Heins: Who is RIM's New CEO?

 @redletterdave
on January 23 2012 10:40 AM

After a tumultuous weekend for Research in Motion (RIM) that saw its two co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis ousted, the Ontario, Canada-based company decided to hire Thorsten Heins as its new president and CEO. The vote to replace Balsillie and Lazaridis with Heins was unanimous, but who is the new leader of the BlackBerry brand?

Heins has known RIM from the inside and out. Prior to being named president and CEO, Heins served as the company's COO of Product Engineering since 2007, and oversaw the entire BlackBerry smartphone portfolio, including hardware, software, and sales. As many know, the BlackBerry smartphones have almost singlehandedly kept the company afloat, particularly RIM's popular BlackBerry 7 released in 2011.

BlackBerry 7 has been well received.  We are very excited about PlayBook 2.0 and BlackBerry 10, Heins said. The reception of our products at this year's Consumer Electronics Show was encouraging.   

Before he joined RIM, Heins played the role of competitor to RIM when he was the chief technology officer of Siemens' Communication Division. He had worked as a chief executive in several divisions within Siemens since 1984.

Thorsten, who was originally born in Germany, graduated from the University of Hannover with a master's degree in Science and Physics. A bridge between German (Siemens) and Canadian (RIM) tech companies, Heins continues to serve on the Board of Directors for the Canadian German Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Inc. However, his main duties will be righting RIM's ship to better compete with Apple and Google, which have pushed BlackBerry out of the spotlight.

We have a strong balance sheet with approximately $1.5 billion in cash at the end of the last quarter and negligible debt, Heins said. We reported revenue of $5.2 billion in our last quarter, up 24% from the prior quarter, and a 35% year-to-year increase in the BlackBerry subscriber base, which is now over 75 million. 

But what of RIM's former co-CEOs? Balsillie will remain a member of RIM's board, while Lazaridis, who was also RIM's former co-chair, was named RIM's vice chair of the board and chair of the board's new Innovation Committee.

Mike and Jim took a bold step 18 months ago when RIM purchased QNX to shepherd the transformation of the BlackBerry platform for the next decade, Mr. Heins said.  We are more confident than ever that was the right path. It is Mike and Jim's continued unwillingness to sacrifice long-term value for short-term gain which has made RIM the great company that it is today.  I share that philosophy and am very excited about the company's future.

Lazaridis will work with Heins to ensure a smooth transition and be present to offer strategic counsel.

Thorsten has demonstrated throughout his tenure at RIM that he has the right mix of leadership, relevant industry experience and skills to take the company forward, Lazaridis said. We have been impressed with his operational skills at both RIM and Siemens.  I am so confident in RIM's future that I intend to purchase an additional $50 million of the company's shares, as permitted, in the open market. 

As for what's next, Heins said he will make sure RIM has the right people in the right positions before moving forward with more products.

Going forward, we will continue to focus both on short-term and long-term growth, strategic planning, a customer- and market-based product approach, and flawless execution, Heins said. We are in the process of recruiting a new Chief Marketing Officer to work closely with our product and sales teams to deliver the most compelling products and services.

RIM earned its reputation by focusing relentlessly on the customer and delivering unique mobile communications solutions. We intend to build on this heritage to expand BlackBerry's leadership position.   

RIM, which was founded in 1984, launched the BlackBerry smartphone in 1999 and had a great deal of success for the next decade, particularly in the business and enterprise sectors, until the iPhone arrived in 2007 and drastically altered the smartphone market. Since then, the company has been struggling to keep up, despite its efforts to produce tablets like the BlackBerry Playbook and other smartphones to compete with the iPhone.

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