Former Co-CEO Jim Balsillie now totally disconnected from BlackBerry

Jim Balsillie
By Chris Umiastowski on 14 Feb 2013 10:27 am EST

This morning the media is all over the news that former co-CEO of Research In Motion now owns zero stock in the company we now call BlackBerry.  

Here's the official SEC filing indicating that Balsillie now has no stock.  He cleared out all holdings by December 31, 2012.  

This really shouldn't surprise anyone.  I have known Balsillie for many years.  It's not like we had beers together at the local pub or anything, but people who have been around the technology sector on Bay Street in Canada since around the year 2000 have gotten to know Jim's personality pretty well.  He's very competitive, very involved, and very opinionated.  So when he and Mike Lazaridis stepped down from the co-CEO roles, and Jim then stepped down from the board, it was a clear sign he was not staying involved with the company in any way.

It was widely rumoured that he had a strategy disagreement with the board.  Knowing Jim's opinionated personality (which I think is a good thing for a CEO, by the way) I'm not at all surprised that he sold every share.

He has moved on.  That's all it means.  This move says nothing about the potential success of the new BlackBerry 10 platform.  It says nothing about the current strength of the management team. It's a personal choice by Jim Balsillie, and it should be respected.

Reader comments

Former Co-CEO Jim Balsillie now totally disconnected from BlackBerry


Too harsh.  Jim and Mike built this company. Jim got some amazing things done in terms of carrier deals, etc.  Yeah, they made plenty of mistakes towards the end but he reall contributed a LOT to BlackBerry.  Let's not forget that.

Way too harsh!

Jim and Mike built this company that we all support. Taking that away from him/them shows ignorance. Yes, they've both made mistakes, but it doesn't dimish what they brought to the world and more importantly Canada.

This may be the last we hear about Jim in regards to BlackBerry, but I doubt this is the last we will hear from Jim. Good Luck in your future sir!

I Bleed Black & Berry

Ideally they would have stepped down around 2008 and gone out on top. It's unfortunate that they could have surrounded themselves with people who knew how to run a big company but didn't. Their management structure was ridiculous with 2 ceo and 3 COO and a fragmented marketing team it is clear that BB's fall from grace was due to mismanagement more than anything.

I don't know, this Balsillie struck me as a shmarmy weasel. So he contributed lots from a shmarmy weasel perspective but Lazaridis built BlackBerry from the ground up. Any one could have accomplished what Balsillie did, and likely in a much better, more-beneficial manner for BlackBerry (at the time RIM).

Balsillie is single-handedly responsible for the views everyone has on this brand. He WAS the PR guy and he shouldn't have been. Any crap Mike would've been involved in as far as negative press goes would have been by Jim convincing him or sugar-coating some BS, but Mike is not the weasel that Jim was, and I'm sure will continue to be - the guy is like a used car salesman.

This is my opinion, and it will never change unless I have some earth-moving discussion with Jim Balsillie to prove otherwise.

There seems to be an overwhelming sentiment that Mike and Jim were equally responsible for BB's decline, and if you read between the lines it's fairly easy to see that it just isn't the case.

I think Jim was the marketer/schmoozer/idea guy and I think he began to fancy himself as the second coming of Jobs. His ego is absolutely massive (though to be fair, sometimes that's a leadership requirement). Mike? I'm sure he has his own sins to apologize for, but he was the technical/engineering wizard. The "Woz" to Balsillie's "Jobs", if you will.

Since Heins took over as CEO, you'll notice that Mike has remained active in the company. He continues to sit on the BoD, and he still apparently still contributes engineering expertise. Mike was also at the Z10 launch, and while Heins thanked both his predecessors, the fact that only one was there was telling.

Even more telling, Balsillie liquidated his entire holding and has completely dismissed the Z10. To me that bears all the hallmarks of a butthurt kid who takes his ball and goes home. He's already lost a ton of money on the deal.

So, yes, I say "good riddance" too.

i really think a law that he showed was more towards beign stubborn and his need for another NHL team in ontario.

the thing is without Jim and Mike BB would be nothing and the smartphone market would probably be a fraction of what it is, apple and android probably wouldn't be major players, Palm would still be around windows phone would be on top. the competition and demand for spartphones would be alot worse off then it is today so Jim and Mike should be thanked for making life an easier place, even though at the end the BB brand took a bit of a beating, they still revolutionized mobile comunication and mobile computing

I'm a firm believer that the stocks will continue to jump around until the device officially goes on sale in the US with the main carriers. That will be the true test of the desire in the US market for the "new" kid on the block.

I forgot to include this also: If anyone wants to say that Jim's sale of stock represents knowledge that BlackBerry will fail, consider that Lazaridis remains on the board and still owns 29 million shares. So it doesn't look like Mike sees things the same way. Anyway, like I said, I don't think Jim's sale of stock is a reflection on his view of the investment potential. He just didn't want to be connected to BlackBerry any more. More of an emotional decision than a financial one.

I agree the fact that he hasn't been involved in any way in over a year. I would cash out, close that chapter and move on as well.

"More of an emotional decision than a financial one."

If that's the way Jim operates, I wonder how that impacted RIM's fortunes over time... maybe it explains some things.

This glosses over that Mike L as a board member and employee of RIM/BlackBerry would be subject to any trading blackouts that would have been in place prior to the BB10 launch. So he wouldn't have been able to sell his shares, while Jim B being having completely severed ties with the company had no such restrictions. I also find it hard to believe Jim B would throw away money out of spite. He obviously saw better investment potential elsewhere.

Yes, let's cut through any crap here. You're saying Jim B sold over $250 million dollars worth of shares in RIM/BlackBerry for emotional reasons. That he incurred the immediate tax hit from selling those shares for emotional reasons. That his wife whom he is divorcing carries the same hurt feelings that he does at being ousted and allowed him to liquidate those holdings without considering the investment potential of those shares. Let's just say I find that analysis a huge reach.

And before anyone claims I'm ripping BlackBerry I'm not saying this sale indicates Jim B believes BlackBerry will fail, go under, etc. It just says looking at the risk/reward of holding vs keeping some or all of his shares he thought his money was better moved elsewhere. And to my point concerning Mike L being subject to company trading blackouts. If he wanted to sell he would have to factor in resigning from BlackBerry in his risk/reward, including any potential share price volatility when that news was announced. Mike and Jim are very different people so risk/reward tolerances may not be the same.

Yes, he saw "better investment potential elsewhere". Meanwhile, the stock is now worth about 20% more than it was in December. I hope that wherever Jim put his money, it offered a better return than that.

Sounds like a bitter ex-girlfriend buurning all of the stuff you bought her. And, this is released on Valentine's Day, too!!

Haha...good point! Wish him best of luck. Blackberry is heading in a positive direction, just one less distraction.

I bet he's sitting at home on his laptop, staring at the eTrade website and listening to Taylor Swift's "Picture to Burn" as we speak lol

We'll never know.  It's not hard to sell that kind of block given the liquidity for the stock.  He probably gave the trade to a big US house for a negotiated commission.  Where it lands is nobody's knowledge but the trading desk at that shop.  

Great analysis and commentary, Chris. I agree. Not an "insider" who has lost faith... he has just moved on. Doesn't want his money where he has no control over it. And he wants to buy different toys with the money.

Great news!!! Hoping enough people freak out and sell their stock pushing the price lower so i can scoop up a few more shares before they peak again

He's probably using an iPhone or Android now. Someone please snap a picture of him hanging out in starbucks to prove this!

Anyway I always saw him managing more on a business side. Maybe he's being realistic here and never really have the brand loyalty at the first place like Mike does.

Rash decisions and a bruised ego seems to be par for the course for Jim.

No offense to him, just like Chris said did a lot for RIM and made some amazing deals for them with carriers. But looking at his behavior and decisions at the end of his run at BlackBerry and anything he ever tried to do with NHL, anyone should of saw this coming.

He must have wanted the cash for something - either that or been bitter about his ousting - though I doubt he's that crazy.

While it's sad that Mr Balsillie has found it necessary to sell, he was largely responsible for the mess RIM got itself into.

Unfettered and uncontrolled spending and an out of control management structure that buried reality below multiple layers of BS. He had no enterprise experience and it showed.

Nice attempt to revise history, but i'd say most of the blame goes to Lazaridis that under-estimated the iPhone and continued milking the stale BBOS even while it was being outstripped by its rivals.

I respect Mike L, but Jim was a used car salesman that would say anything knowing being uninformed or downright lying! Good Riddance!

And he was there to watch it erode away while he was focused on purchasing a Hockey team, and making outlandish statements and now known lies about the PlayBook and BBX/BB10. Mike was the brains on developing the product, and Jim was the salesman, and I don't think anyone here can claim that BlackBerry has ever had decent marketing. They sold themselves for a long time because they were a great product. Mike made mistakes too, but every time I heard Jim speak in a conference call it almost made my skin crawl with the double speak and misdirection!

December 31st?

@ Chris

Do you think Jim sold for tax loss selling purposes to offset some gains? It seems to make sense in my mind.

It's pretty old news if he cleared out all his holdings by Dec 31/12. Jim was a key player at RIM during the good times, as well as the bad - as were many others. I think he will do well in his future endeavours and I wish him well.

Will he be buying a hockey team now? Much like his rein at Rim it was to little to late. Thor should haven been running the ship 5 years ago. I doubt Blackberry would have been in the mess they are now!

He and Mike may have built up the company but the did drive it into the ground with their arrogance too. A person only needs to look at Nortel for a comparison.

Glad he is gone for good, sure share holders are as well.

A lot of people can be pretty hard on Jim. He didn't design the BB hardware or aging software. You can't sell (which was basically his job) what the people don't want.

So the stock went up despite the fact that one of the biggest shareholders was selling all his shares. Great news for the stock actually!

Great timing by Jim! The stock is up 25% since Dec 31. Of course it may still go down but that's just another piece of evidence that he has little idea about where the company is heading.

I always love reading Chris' opinions on things RIM. You get a better perspective of what's going on and how the markets and street overreact to a lot of things. Way to keep us all informed Umi.


The difficult, we do immediately. The impossible takes a little while longer.

Jim Sillyballs was a great co-CEO in 2008 he was well beyond his "past due" date.

Thorstein runs Blackberry like its designed to compete against Android & Apple.

Mike Lizard and Jim Sillyballs were technology narcissists obsessed with their homegrown recipe and how great BBM is. They never understood the term "competive threat."

Jim, don't let the door hit you in the arse on the way out.

Well, the Z10, and BlackBerry 10 are Mike and Jim's "Homegrown recipe" so if you like the Z10 and BlackBerry 10 you have them to thank. The path was set before Thorsten took the reigns. That acquisitions were made the OS was being built and the phones were well in the pipeline before Thorsten. It was Mike and Jim that laid out the path, but it's Thorsten and his new team that have to execute on it.

We can thank Thorsten and his team of extremely talented executives for executing the launch well, but let's not for a second think that without Mike and Jim we'd have BlackBerry 10 at all. Without Mike and Jim we'd probably have taken Balmer's bag of money and gone Windows Phone like Nokia - cause RIM got the same sweet deal as Nokia - they just turned it down.

I doubt Mr. Balls had anything to do with BB10 technically. He's Myr Leapfrog. He just didn't get it at all. I credit Mike on QNX, but let's be honest if those two were still in charge they would have released the Dev Alphas as real phones and RIM would be toast.

he may have had good acrrier relations but he was terrible with the media. That's just as important. On balance the company is better off without him.

Don't blame him. They basically kicked him out of the company so he took his money so he can get involved in something else.

Jim at every quarterly conferance call told shareholders lies it was always wait for the roadmap or we are going to leapfrog the competition wait till u see the rd map.... then thet came out qith BBOS7 wtf get outta here glad hes gone i have nothing good to say about this man

you are right. He sugar coated the truth. I don't like people that lie.
I thought that he was good for the company, but when he was tossed out, I knew it was for the better.

It would be great to see the shares at $225.00/share.

Chris, that was a good, even-handed commentary on this. Can you infect the journalists out there with your level-headed approach?

Screw all of you bashing jim. He made a decision and it was his decision. Now he can do whatever he wants and feels to do. Leave him alone, drop the damn obsessions and focus on your own lives. Don't stalk or harass him either. That'll just screw up your lives and end up getting you in prison.

He will feel silly for jumping ship so soon. A year from now BB 10 will have a 70% market share and the iPhone will be an industry after-thought. You can take that to the bank baby!