RIM mulling new chair

Research In Motion Ltd. may soon appoint a new chair, removing the role from founders Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, a report suggests.
Research In Motion co-CEO Jim Balsillie, right, and president and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis may soon lose their co-chair titles, a report suggests. (Mike Cassese/Reuters)

Research In Motion Ltd. may soon appoint a new chair, removing the role from founders Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, a report suggested Tuesday.

According to Tuesday's Financial Post, the Waterloo, Ont.-based technology giant is preparing to unveil a shakeup at the company's board-of director-level. Citing unnamed sources, the Post says Barbara Stymiest, an independent director who joined RIM's board in 2007, is the leading candidate to be named the new chair.

The highly regarded Stymiest was CEO of the Toronto Stock Exchange before moving on to become chief operating officer at the Royal Bank of Canada.

Pressure to reform

RIM has faced intense pressure from shareholders for months to change its management structure. Currently, co-founders Lazaridis and Balsillie share the CEO and chair titles, a situation rare in Canadian business.

Activist shareholder group Jaguar has led the charge for reform at RIM, saying the company is undervalued. Jaguar has called for a change at the executive level, and pushed to sell off certain business units to unlock value.

Last month, Jaguar issued a media release that, among other requests, urged Stymiest "to draw upon her experience and cause significant change in corporate governance," at RIM. Jaguar said Stymiest and other board members should "step up and take the lead in making dramatic governance change or else resign from the board if they are unable or unwilling to initiate appropriate governance changes."

In July, RIM agreed to an independent governance review, in part to avoid an ugly confrontation at its annual general meeting. That review is scheduled to issue its report by Jan. 31.

Northern Securities analyst Sameet Kanade says changes at the company are inevitable.

"Whether it's Barbara or somebody else who takes the lead is anyone's guess … but more has to happen at RIM besides a managerial change," Kanade said.

"If any sort of change happens, I'm sure it will be viewed positively by investors."

RIM declined to comment to CBC News regarding the Post's report. However, the company did confirm the governance review is proceeding on schedule.

"As previously disclosed, RIM’s board has established a committee of independent directors with the mandate to study the company’s governance structure and report their findings by Jan. 31, 2012," RIM said.

"The committee is on track to meet this schedule and the board will then publicly respond to the recommendations of the committee within 30 days."

RIM was the most valuable company in Canada as recently as 2008, but after a series of missteps, the company has seen its share of the smartphone market dwindle. RIM shares lost more than 75 per cent of their value last year.

RIM shares were slightly higher on the TSX on Tuesday, up $1 or almost 7 per cent to $15.80.