Mike Lazaridis was at the helm of Research in Motion Ltd. for two decades, along with Jim Balsillie, before the two announced on Jan. 22 that they are leaving their top jobs at the Waterloo, Ont.-based company.

The co-chief executive officers of RIM developed the iconic BlackBerry and began selling the device in 1999. It was the smartphone of choice for business employees for almost a decade, until Apple and other competitors knocked RIM out of top spot in the corporate arena.

Here are some highlights in the life and career of Lazaridis:

  • Date of birth: The 50-year-old Greek-Canadian businessman was born in Istanbul on March 14, 1961. He was five when his family moved to Canada.
  • Education: He studied electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Waterloo, but dropped out in 1984, just two months before graduation, to set up RIM. He received an honorary engineering doctorate from the University of Waterloo in 2003.
  • Honours: In 2006, Lazaridis was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and a member of the Order of Ontario.
  • Charity: Lazaridis has donated $170 million to the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, which focuses on cutting-edge research in foundational physics, as well as nearly $100 million to the Institute for Quantum Computing, also in Waterloo, to advance research in quantum information.
  • Compensation: His basic annual salary was about $1.17 million in 2011. In March 2011, he was reported to be worth $1.9-billion, slightly ahead of Balsillie at $1.8-billion. Some reports say they're still billionaires, while others say they're each worth roughly $800 million each because of their charitable donations and plummeting RIM share prices. In December 2011, Lazaridis and Balsillie both asked to have their salaries changed to $1 per year, a gesture many observers saw as an acknowledgement of the financial issues facing RIM.
  • Corporate misfire: In September 2010, Lazaridis announced RIM's new tablet, the PlayBook. When it was rolled out in the spring of 2011, critics complained about the fact that it was not equipped with RIM's trademark email service, and the company's fortunes began to sag.
  • Quote about the 2011 BlackBerry outage: "Since launching BlackBerry in 1999, it's been my goal to provide reliable real-time communications around the world. We did not deliver on that goal this week, not even close," he said in an online video posted Oct. 13, after service outages occurred in parts of Europe, the Mideast, Africa, North and South America. "You expect better from us, and I expect better from us."
  • Quote about his departure: "There comes a time in the growth of every successful company when it’s time for the leaders to pass the baton," Lazaridis said, according to Reuters. "Jim and I went to the board and we told them we think the time is now."