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RIM CEO’s Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis Abandon Ship

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Co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion have stepped down effective immediately, after a 75% decrease in the value of the company’s share price over the course of 2011. Chief Operating Officer Thorsten Heins will immediately become the new CEO, and is tasked with making BlackBerry competitive again in the smartphone market. With Apple and Google devices dominating the market, that will be no easy task.

According to the company, both Balsillie and Lazaridis relinquished their positions voluntarily. Lazaridis, the founder of Research in Motion, will remain with the company as the vice chairman; Balsillie will have a less active role as a board member with no operational control.

Despite slumping sales and the runaway success of Apple and Android devices, RIM leadership has resisted the idea of selling the company. The latest numbers have RIM holding 16.6% market share in the smartphone market, with Google leading with 46.9% and Apple in second at 28.7%. Things look bad for the once-king of the smartphone world, but incoming CEO Heins remains confident, claiming that no “drastic change” is needed to make RIM competitive. Investors seemed to disagree, as shares of the company fell 6.2% after Heins made the statement in a conference call. With Apple and Google rapidly infringing on the business world, largely considered to be BlackBerry’s turf, those investors just might be right to raise their eyebrows and drop their confidence in the company, especially considering the borderline disastrous release of the PlayBook tablet.

The outgoing CEOs remain positive, too, at least with what they are saying with their wallets. Lazaridis is planning to invest another $50 million in the company, while Balsillie offered a more tepid show of support, only saying that he plans to remain a major shareholder.

Best of luck to the new CEO – with BlackBerry 10 coming out later this year and the company’s stock in a tailspin, that new operating system just might make or break Research in Motion.

Via Bloomberg