Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Then-Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., checks his BlackBerry in St. Louis, Mo., in this July 7, 2008, file photo.

The Associated Press

The resignation of Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis as co-CEOs of Research in Motion marks the end of an era not only for the BlackBerry maker, but for Canadian business. Their raw determination and unapologetic ambition, so uncommon among Canadian business leaders, transformed a small consulting company into a $20-billion global behemoth with an iconic brand sought after by presidents and movie stars.

Mr. Lazaridis and Mr. Balsillie are inspirational figures for their technological innovation, and the fact that they built RIM into a global company, but also for the way they have worn the maple leaf on their chests. They insisted, for example, on basing RIM in Waterloo, and in the process contributed substantially to the creation of what has been dubbed Quantum Valley, an R&D hub consisting of three communities and hundreds of high-tech companies.

And they have used their personal wealth to invest heavily in personal passions with global benefits.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Lazaridis gave $170-million to establish the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, and $100-million to the Institute for Quantum Computing. Mr. Balsillie has taken on world politics and international relations, donating $20-million to found the Centre for International Governance Innovation, in Waterloo and $50-million to establish the Balsillie School of International Affairs, and serves as chair of the Canadian International Council.

These are tremendous gifts and the payback, especially of Mr. Lazaridis's far-sighted ambition, will not be known for many years, but they do have the potential to profoundly alter our world.

With respect to RIM, however, the ambition of Mr. Balsillie and Mr. Lazaridis has had its downside. RIM's fantastic success, which confirmed the duo's brazen bet on the completely new and untested technology of push e-mail, fed a culture in which they failed to recognize their fallibility, a not uncommon characteristic in highly successful people.

Mr. Lazaridis, an engineer who inspired his workers to achieve what many thought impossible, dismissed Apple's game-changing iPhone as a toy. Mr. Balsillie, whose professed belief in governance was so great he founded a think-tank around it, treated RIM's own board as a rubber stamp. Which is why, despite years of drift, disappointing devices and plummeting U.S. market share that slashed RIM's stock price by 75 per cent in 2011, it took until this week for the two to decide to step down. Most CEOs would have been long gone. And their replacements, Thorsten Heins as CEO, and former RBC executive Barbara Stymiest as chair, are not, at least according to RIM's sagging share price, what the market was hoping for. On taking the reins, Mr. Heins, RIM's former COO, dismissed the need for any "drastic change," saying the company just needed a "bit more of an ear toward the consumer market." But it will take more than that. The former Siemens executive has inherited a conservative company, one much more at ease with incremental change rather than radical innovation.

RIM's story is by no means written, nor for that matter are those of Mr. Balsillie and Mr. Lazaridis. Despite the slings and arrows being directed at them, they never took the easy way out. They could, like so many of their Canadian colleagues, have sold out rather than take on giants like Nokia and Apple. Instead, they proved a Canadian start-up could take on the world and win. And so, while one era may be over, it is to be hoped that another equally ambitious one for RIM, and Canadian companies inspired by their success, is beginning.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies