RIM investor seeks change; PlayBook going global

Mon Jun 13, 2011 9:32am EDT
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By Alastair Sharp

TORONTO (Reuters) - An investor in Research In Motion wants a shareholder vote on whether the company's two leaders can retain shared roles as chairmen of the board and chief executives, in the latest headwind to hit the BlackBerry maker ahead of next week's results.

The call to limit the roles held by co-founder Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie adds to RIM's woes as it struggles to present itself as a legitimate third option in a smartphone race increasingly dominated by tech giants Apple and Google.

The setup "makes it more difficult for the board of directors in general to ask management difficult questions," Northwest and Ethical Investments' vice-president of ethical funds, Bob Walker, told Reuters.

The proposal from Northwest and Ethical, which holds more than half a million RIM shares, calls on the company to split the roles and amend its bylaws to ensure the chair is an independent board member, RIM said in a regulatory filing on Friday.

Balsillie resigned as chairman in March 2007 and stepped down from the board in February 2009 following a stock options accounting scandal but returned, along with Lazaridis, as co-chairman in December 2010.

Northwest and Ethical said that decision "contradicts the company's own statement, widely acknowledged best practice, and regulatory expectations," the filing showed.

Northern Securities analyst Sameet Kanade, who in late April wrote an open letter seeking a change in RIM's management structure, said he was not surprised by the move, but had expected it to be made by a larger shareholder.

"Ideally, RIM takes proactive measures to fix an internal matter rather than a forced change such as this which further distracts focus away from a critical issue, the continual drop in market share due to lack of a competitive platform," he said.   Continued...