RIM close to stripping CEOs of chairmanship: report

Tue Jan 3, 2012 4:57pm EST
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TORONTO (Reuters) - Research In Motion is close to a decision on stripping its co-chief executives of their other shared role as chairman of the board, a newspaper said on Tuesday, a change that could meet a key demand from angry and disillusioned investors.

The National Post newspaper, citing "sources familiar with events," said Barbara Stymiest, currently an independent member of RIM's board, is leading the race to replace Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie in the chairmanship.

RIM shares jumped more than 7 percent on investor hopes that the struggling BlackBerry maker was listening to increasingly strident demands for change.

"Any talk about an independent chairman is going to give this company a boost. It will increase the likelihood the value of this company will be unlocked," said BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis.

"It breaks the stranglehold the current CEOs and co-chairs have on the company."

But other analysts doubted Stymiest, if named to the chairmanship, would actually assume the transformational role that activist shareholders are calling for.

Lazaridis and Balsillie, RIM's second and third-largest shareholders with a little more than 5 percent of the stock apiece, are currently in the unusual position of sharing the two top-tier positions, as chairman and as CEO.

They have resisted large-scale change so far, even as investor pressures mounted as the shares tumbled 75 percent last year after a series of profit warnings, and the botched launch and dismal sales of its PlayBook tablet computer.

RIM, which is also facing a slump in BlackBerry sales in the important U.S. market, on Tuesday extended its steep discounting of the PlayBook, offering each of the three storage sizes at a flat $299 until early February.   Continued...