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Business Analysis & Features

The business on...Jim Balsillie, Mike Lazaridis, Joint CEOs, Research in Motion

Two for the price of one in this column today?

Yes, we are talking about the Zaphod Beeblebrox of the smartphone industry, the pair of heads at the company that makes the BlackBerry.

And two heads are better than one?

The pair have been running RIM jointly since 1992, a good six years before it invented the BlackBerry, and turned it into Canada's most famous company, so you might think so. Except that suddenly, everyone seems to want to sever one of the heads.


Corporate governance campaigners have never liked the blurred lines of accountability, and after two profit warnings in two months investors have turned on the co-chief executive idea. And then this week an anonymous open letter, supposedly from a "senior executive", has been floating round the internet, stoking the issue.

Can a letter be both open and anonymous?

It may well be a fake but as well as complaining about everything, from bureaucracy at the company to the fact that it is called RIM not BlackBerry, it tells Messieurs Lazaridis and Balsillie to step back. Apple's iPhone and phones using Google's Android software are trouncing BlackBerry, and there's an air of panic about the place.

But you said the two-headed thing worked well for almost two decades?

Mr Lazaridis, who emigrated to Canada from Turkey as a child, is the technical brains. He had read every science book in his local library before he was a teenager. Mr Balsillie, who is the archetypal Harvard MBA graduate and has a passion for ice hockey, complements him by concentrating on marketing and smooching investors.

And now?

RIM now says it will set up a board committee to examine the management structure. So don't be surprised to see an enforced divorce. It is certainly easier than fixing the company.