Research In Motion’s stock has been taking a tumble the last couple of weeks, and is culminating in some bold demands from one firm, Northwest and Ethical Investments. The proposed shareholder vote would separate the CEO and chairman of the board roles, which would presumably lead to either co-CEO claiming either position, or at very least both of them off-loading the role to an independent board member. A few years ago, there was a stock options kerfuffle that ultimately led to co-CEO Jim Balsillie leaving the board of directors, but last December, he came back. NEI Investments says the return “contradicts the company’s own statement, widely acknowledged best practice, and regulatory expectations”. RIM is encouraging shareholders to vote against the motion which is likely to come up at the July 12 general meeting, on the grounds that a certain John Richardson already handles the de facto chairman position, and there’s no law in Canada and the U.S. against their current structure.
I’m not an expert in corporate law by a long shot, but considering RIM has been peeving off shareholders with apparently misleading projections, and seeing as BlackBerry has been steadily losing market share over the last couple of years, maybe this change is necessary to realign the company and provide some focus. It goes without saying that the twin CEO structure of RIM is unique among mobile manufacturers, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s practical. They’ve divvied things up pretty squarely between the two of them, at least: Balsillie handles PR and shmoozing, while Lazaridis handles the technology. Lazaridis might not be the guy to be doing a lot of the talking, considering how he has handled interviews in the past, and if that’s the main role for the CEO, maybe Balsillie should take the reins.
Even if this motion only results in Balsillie and Lazaridis giving up some power to an independent board member, if RIM had one CEO, who should it be?