RIM's Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie will be the last to share both the CEO and Board Chair position, after an independent review decided never again would the two roles be conflated by BlackBerry management. In fact, the committee of independent directors deemed [pdf link], the RIM Chair should from now on always be a non-BlackBerry employee.
Earlier this month, RIM announced a new CEO, Thorsten Heins, as well as a new independent RIM Board Chair, Barbara Stymiest. Previously a member of Royal Bank of Canada's Group Executive, and a member of RIM’s Board since 2007, Stymiest is being seen as a placatory nod to investors frustrated by RIM's direction at the hands of Lazaridis and Balsillie.
That nod was a primary motivator during the independent review, itself arranged after shareholder protest. Although the review found that combining the Chair and CEO positions was a common trend among RIM's competitors, the overwhelming feeling toward the practice meant it still recommended the roles be separated.
A review of the decision will be undertaken annually, though it's unclear if RIM will be able to prove itself on the turnaround within just twelve months time. The company's first BlackBerry 10 devices aren't expected until the end of this year.
"The Committee came to the point of view that the strong opposition to non-independent chairs in Canada should outweigh the other considerations, including current practice in the United States and in RIM’s ecosystem. While the Committee is comfortable that our Lead Director has performed the appropriate governance functions expected of that position up to the present, the Committee recommends that RIM should separate the roles of Chair and CEO and amend the Board mandate accordingly. The Committee believes that appointing an independent Chair is the appropriate solution for RIM shareholders and will resolve the issue for RIM and its employees and business partners" Independent RIM review