John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

RIM Co-CEOs to Critics: We’re Awesome and We’re Not Going Anywhere


Research in Motion co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis have an answer for critics calling for their ouster, or at least the end of their power-sharing arrangement.

Take off, eh? We’re doing a great job.

During a bizarre earnings call Thursday, the two defended the company’s co-CEO structure essentially by praising one another and their accomplishments together, which, while considerable in the long view, are more than a bit lacking in the short term, as a quick glance at the company’s stock performance this year — or its moldering handset portfolio — will tell you.

“Mike and I would like to address some of the concerns that have been expressed surrounding the executive management structure at RIM and, specifically, the joint nature of our leadership,” Balsillie said. “Mike and I have been partners in this business for almost 20 years, and during that time RIM has grown to $20 billion in annual revenue. We are currently approaching the tail end of a significant transition in our business, that, frankly, few companies would have survived. But we have. And I believe, and I think Mike would agree, that neither of us could have taken RIM this far alone.”

“I agree with Jim’s comments,” Lazaridis added. “Our co-CEO arrangement is what led to RIM’s success over the past two decades.”

That point is well taken; there’s no question the two are responsible for turning RIM into an industry juggernaut. But that’s ancient history now. These are very different times, and Balsillie’s implication that he and Lazaridis are the only two executives on the face of the planet capable of continuing RIM’s legacy seems … questionable.

‘”I expect to see the Maple Leafs win a Stanley Cup before RIM builds a number one phone.”

Bing Gordon, Kleiner Perkins

After all, it’s RIM’s strategic missteps that brought the company to this sorry state in the first place. And responsibility for those rests firmly with the co-CEOs, who clearly had their heads in the sand when Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android first began to emerge as a threat back in 2007.

Yet Balsillie and Lazaridis seem entirely oblivious to this. Certainly that was the appearance they gave during Thursday’s earnings call.

“Jim and I have the perfect balance to make the hard decisions,” Lazaridis said. “This is fun. … We’re changing the world. We’re transforming the way people work. … We birthed a tablet in a year! … We transitioned to a new operating system!”

The only thing more tiring — and frustrating — than listening to the company’s repeated “just you wait, our new device is a quantum leap over anything that’s out there” promises is hearing the two guys who make and then break them congratulate each another on what a fantastic job they’re doing navigating a transition they didn’t have the foresight to prepare for — or see.

That they did this while their stock was tanking — falling some 15 percent as investors reacted to their company’s ugly financials — is simply astonishing.

“RIM has taken a unique path and the reason why we do things might not always be obvious from the outside,” Lazaridis said at one point during the call.

At this point, I wonder if it’s obvious to anyone but RIM’s co-CEOs.

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