When Research In Motion Ltd. held its annual general meeting last year, the company’s stock price was above $27, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie were still co-CEOs and co-chairmen of the board, and BlackBerry’s share of the U.S. smartphone market, though shrunken, was still around 25 per cent.
This week, as RIM holds its AGM for 2012 in Waterloo, Ont., things look remarkably different. RIM shares have tanked to around $8. The two men who led RIM as it grew from a startup into Canada’s largest technology company are no longer in charge, and the board of directors – seen by many observers as toothless – has high-profile new members. In the U.S., one of RIM’s most valuable markets, the BlackBerry’s share of the smartphone market has withered to around 11 per cent.
The problems facing RIM remain essentially the same, from a lack of compelling products to competing against well-capitalized global rivals such as Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.; the people facing them, however, are very different. The company promoted its former chief operating officer, Thorsten Heins, to CEO, and the board of directors is now led by veteran Canadian executive Barbara Stymiest, and joined by renowned value investor Prem Watsa of Fairfax Financial.
The tone emanating from the company has also shifted. Last July, “Mike and Jim,” who stepped aside as co-CEOs and co-chairmen in late January, defended the company against irate shareholders who decried RIM’s missteps battling back against Apple’s iPhone and the onslaught of Google Inc.’s Android mobile operating system.
Now, RIM’s struggle in the marketplace is a topic of conversation among ordinary Canadians.
RIM holds its annual meeting at 10 a.m. ET Tuesday.