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Balsillie, Lazaridis, step down as RIM CEOs

Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis have stepped down as co-CEOs of Research in Motion.

The company’s website named Thorsten Heins as the new president and CEO on Sunday night.

The news comes after a troubled year for the BlackBerry maker. Last year’s spring roll-out of the PlayBook, its answer to Apple’s hugely successful iPad, left critics unimpressed. RIM saw its stock market value fall from about $50 billion at the beginning of 2011 to about $7.6 billion by year’s end.

“One big change, if you want to put it that way, is really focusing on our marketing communications,” Heins told CityNews.

Many investors held Balsillie and Lazaridis responsible for the company’s problems and previously called for them to be replaced and also for the company to be sold or broken up.

In the executive shake-up, Lazaridis was named vice-chair of RIM’s board and chair of the board’s new innovation committee. Balsillie will remain a member of RIM’s board, according to a company statement.

Lazaridis co-founded the company in 1984 and was joined by Balsillie in 1992.

Heins, one of RIM’s former chief operating officers, is now the sole chief executive officer.

In 2011, RIM was forced to cut 2,000 jobs to keep costs in line. A worldwide, four-day BlackBerry outage in October cost it more than $50 million in revenues and tarnished its reputation. It warned investors it would book a $485-million charge on the cost of discounting the price of PlayBooks by more than half to help boost sales.

In December, RIM reported third-quarter net profits of US$265 million, well below the $911 million for the same period a year before. That came despite the sale of millions more BlackBerrys than in 2010 and a 35 per cent rise in global subscribers to 75 million.

With files from The Canadian Press