Research In Motion Names Thorsten Heins as President & CEO
BlackBerry maker Research In Motion on Sunday announced that it has named Thorsten Heins as President and Chief Executive Officer of the struggling mobile device maker.
Thorsten Heins, 54, previously served as one of RIM’s two Chief Operating Officers and, prior to that role, SVP for the Handheld Business Unit. The top spot was handed over to Heins by former co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis.
Waterloo, Ontario based RIM, which suffered from a series of outages last year and intense competition from Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android devices, still has a solid balance sheet and strong enterprise presence, but has been losing market share to rivals.
In addition to intense competition on the handset front, the company’s proprietary network model has been criticized and highlighted during outages in October 2011 that affected tens of millions of subscribers in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and North America.
“RIM’s proprietary BlackBerry delivery network has always been a key strength. Millions of people rely on it for speedy and reliable delivery of email and messages. But the outages showed that the network is now a weakness,” explained SecurityWeek columnist Andrew Jaquith, who serves as CTO at Perimeter E-Security.
“RIM should dismantle its centralized delivery network for its consumer devices and move to a decentralized model,” Jaquith suggests. “That is what Microsoft and Apple, in essence, do today because the devices connect directly to company servers [via commodity carrier networks] rather than through a single service provider.”
In Heins view, the company has a strong foundation on which to build. “We have a strong balance sheet with approximately $1.5 billion in cash at the end of the last quarter and negligible debt,” he said. “We reported revenue of $5.2 billion in our last quarter, up 24% from the prior quarter, and a 35% year-to-year increase in the BlackBerry subscriber base, which is now over 75 million.”
A native of Germany, Heins came to RIM in December 2007 from Siemens AG, which he joined in 1984 after graduating from the University of Hannover. At Siemens, Mr. Heins rose through the ranks of R&D customer service, sales and product management positions. After serving as Chief Executive Officer of various business divisions in the communication business, Mr. Heins moved to Chief Technology Officer and member of the Group Board of the Siemens Communications Group.
“With BlackBerry 7 now out, PlayBook 2.0 shipping in February and BlackBerry 10 expected to ship later this year, the company is entering a new phase, and we felt it was time for a new leader to take it through that phase and beyond,” said Lazaridis. “Jim, the Board and I all agreed that leader should be Thorsten Heins.”
Lazaridis is also putting his money where his mouth is. “I am so confident in RIM’s future that I intend to purchase an additional $50 million of the company’s shares, as permitted, in the open market,” he said.
Heins was also appointed to RIM’s Board, and Mike Lazaridis, former Co-Chair and Co-CEO, has become Vice Chair of the Board and Chair of the Board’s new Innovation Committee.
The company is also has a search under way for a new Chief Marketing Officer.