Under The Zeis Lens: Who is Research In Motion CEO Thorsten Heins?

Thorsten Heins
By Adam Zeis on 24 Jan 2012 03:31 pm EST

While the general BlackBerry fan knows plenty about both Jim Balsille and Mike Lazaridis, not many know just who the new head honcho of Research In Motion is. In what seemed like a whirlwind night, long time co-CEOs Balsillie and Lazaridis stepped down as 4-year RIM employee Thorsten Heins took over as CEO. If you're a BlackBerry lover, fan or enthusiast you'll certainly be curious to know a bit of the story behind RIM's new Chief. Keep reading and we'll take a look at a bit of the history behind Thorsten Heins.

Who is Thorsten Heins?

Thorsten Heins was born in Gifhorn, Germany on December 29, 1957 (he's actually four years older than Mike and Jim, who were both born in 1961, but he's looking pretty young!). Heins attended the University of Hannover in Germany where he earned a degree in science and physics. After graduating University, Heins joined Siemens AG in 1984 and would hold various positions with the company over the next 23 years. Starting out in Research and Development, Heins made his way through the company, holding the position of Chief Technology Officer of Siemens' Communications Division upon his departure in 2007. Heins joined Research In Motion in December of 2007 and became Senior Vice President of the BlackBerry Handheld division. In 2011, Heins became one of two Chief Operating Officers of Product Engineering during some management restructuring at RIM. 

On January 22, 2012, Heins became the sole CEO of RIM, a position which had previously been held by both Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie. Mike Lazaridis, former Co-Chair and Co-CEO, has become Vice Chair of RIM's Board and Chair of the Board's new Innovation Committee. Jim Balsillie will remain a member of the RIM's Board. The company had been struggling with ups and down through most of 2011, including a mixed-review BlackBerry Playbook launch, the biggest outage in RIM history and delays of the much anticipated BlackBerry 10 devices.

Heins is married with a son and daughter and earned approx. $1.92 million USD with RIM in 2011. We haven't met Thorsten in person yet (we're looking forward to that one), but our sources do tell us he is very personable, has a good sense of humor and is very TALL... 6'6". That's not quite as tall as our 6'8" Editor at Large, Simon Sage, but still damn tall. 

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Under The Zeis Lens: Who is Research In Motion CEO Thorsten Heins?


He has already headed in the wrong direction. He could have substituted "more of the same" in place of almost every other word that came out of his mouth. If the company needed more of the same they could have let old men keep their positions. This was nothing more than a feel good replacement.

And the alternative is...?

Heins looks like a good pick, actually. As COO I'm sure he's painfully aware of the execution issues. It will take some time to know for sure, but it could well be that he was given this appointment because he was able to present a reasonable plan to the board.

If Heins is such a good pick, which I have yet to form an opinion on to be honest, why would the market have spoken with a 9% drop on the day of the announcement and a further 4% drop the following day?

I'm not saying that this individual is the wrong choice, but I think a lot of investors amongst others were hoping to see something "different" - his initial speech, if summarizing, said everything is fine as it is and there is no need to change anything.

With all due respect; if everything was just fine and there is no need to change anything, then RIM would not be in the shape that it is. Everything is NOT fine. And things DO need to change.

I think investors were hoping to hear some acknowledgment and recognition on the part of the new CEO to RIM's problems along with a statement from him indicating that RIM will be working on rectifying their issues. What we got instead is simply more of the same - another "everything is fine and we don't need to change" message. And investors, along with other analysts spoke; stock dropped.

The true test, of course, regarding whether Heins is the right person for the job will be to see where this company is six - twelve months from now. And we're already off to a rocky start.

No Vic Alboini is still spouting off. He claims he now has the support of almost 10% of shares & may call a meeting in the next few months to force a vote to remove the existing directors with new ones that will rip RIM up and sell the pieces.

"Jaguar continues to lie in wait, says Vic Alboini, Jaguar CEO and chairman. And its claws remain sharp."

And right after he said that, he was told that Jaguar is a short term investment firm, for which it totally makes sense to split the company, sell it in pieces, and make some small profit. In street jargon, this is called a troll, a market troll in this case.

as a shareholder of RIM i wish he would shut up and go under the rock he came from.

a CBC interviewer referred to him as to owning 10% of RIM,.she said it twice and he never corrected her. i doubt he owns more than 0.01%

The stock dropped for various reasons - this alone did not cause the drop: look at the technical picture and the general markets

And one of the various reasons was Wall Street's reaction to the news of the new CEO. These are just some of the pertinent quotes from Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. for example:

"We see a risk that an insider was chosen to take the role could generate some disappointment,"

"We also worry that initial statements of the new management team seem to fully support the company's current strategy, which is unlikely to fully reassure investors."

"Thorsten Heins remains an insider, and we lack conviction on whether or not he will be making the sort of bold moves required (Android adoption, strategic partnerships) to put the company on a better track," Ferragu said.

Another analyst with Oppenheimer & Co. stated it more bluntly, when he wrote "Too little, too late,".

I'm not sure what radical changes were being expected by these analyst: Jim and Mike still control 10% of the company (and Mike appears to be willing to add $50M). Also, an outsider does not gaurantee much - remember HP?

If I were short-term trading the stock, @ 12.88 it was oversold (entry point) and at 18 there is good resistance (good profit point) + general markets were looking a bit toppy (based on RSI).

Time will tell if Thorsten can execute and where the stock is going.

i agree, time will tell all. rocky start can be good in the future as he learns more about what rim really needs. and i agree. rim does need CHANGE. opposed to being the same. the reason rim is going down is because it is staying "same" compared to change. sure they put technology in a car, but can i afford it? and do i want more accidents on the road when ppl are searching facebook in there car?

i hope he changes things around. I just want my 2.0 playbook software and my android apps :) thanks!

@Adam Zeis: May I suggest making this post a "sticky" one? I have learned much about Mr. Heins thanks to not only this post, but also the similarly focused ones from the past few days, consolidating such posts under a tabbed section would be a great source of information for all CrackBerry visitors.

This is guys is total dud. Did you hear him speak on the posted video? I've gotten more excited from eating oatmeal than watching RIM's new CEO.
I am just curious... Perhaps part of the conditions set by Mike L. & Jim B. were that in order for Thornstein to become CEO he must first remove his testicles??

Who knows maybe he'll do a great job.. He just doesn't seem like he has much "fire in his belly" to shake things up over there in Waterloo. Time will tell I guess..

I listened to the conference call he had and have read a number of interviews. Though the press reviews tend toward the negative, I believe he has a clear idea of what needs to be done...marketing to the consumer and streamlining R&D so that innovation and then device release are of high quality and quick to the market.

I also like that he is willing to listen to licensing of BB10 and that the uniqueness of BB needs to be explored, enhanced and explained.

I do believe he is not out to "fire" things up with rhetoric nor to diminish the positive contributions of his predecessors, but to prove his value by delivering innovative devices in a timely way. A lot of people can talk the walk...and we have had too much of that. Let's see if this one can walk the talk.

he actually has my confidence vote , he is and can be a true successor to the legacy that Balsillie and Lazaridis left in place . if change were to happen w someone else but him it could be an interesting way to put blackberry in a hole , to open all your data towers to the world to peep in through your life - i hope it never comes to that .

I am rather new to the crackberry world. Know a bit about business though and what would go a long way for RIM at this point in the new CEOs perspective to the world would be to release another Beta of the Playbook OS with a majorsolution to show the world he is serious about what he is gonna do. This would make the world look twice to see where things are gonna go under his tutalige...........Just a thought.

LOL, what needs to change? They're (RIM) CHANGING EVERYTHING!!! Only a blind, def, and well - dumb person can look at RIM and suggest they're not changing. Seriously? They're CHANGING THE ENTIRE PLATFORM! Like, what are people even talking about? Makes no sense whatsoever to suggest RIM isn't changing. Wow, a lot of people are really dense.


in the time of your life, live so that in that good time, there should be no ugliness or death for yourself or for any life that your life touches, seek goodness everywhere

Ooops. Missed your post. I kind of posted the same thing, but I am so sick of people overlooking this fact. A new OS people. New hardware. RIM is giving people what they want. have some friggin' patience already. It will be out soon enough. Waiting a month for OS2 and another 6 for BB10 won't kill you, in case you were worried.

i share the same sentiment, the only change needed is to release flawless devices and on time.
the market, analyst and media who are writing off RIM are all idiots.

I dont get the people who say that RIM isnt changing. What RIM needs to do is EXECUTE. Heins has said a lot regarding that deficiency. And he also plans on addressing their woefully inept marketing.

Its too early to say if the change is for better or for worse. Much of what is going on how is still the doing of the Co-CEOs that were before him. We won't see how Hein's turns the company aroud (or fails to) for at least a few months to half a year.

Good grief! Another post on Thorsten Heins. Is he running for office or something? There have already been at least half a dozen posts on this very website on the man.

who bloody cares!! stop hyping this man up CB!!! just don't put him in the limelight and trying to get people to like him! when he makes one bad move people will be disappointed! this website keeps on posting about him! SO WHAT?! yes he is new END OFF! - you aint getting a new BB out of him!

@ Barredbard & phoenix raiden

I see nothing wrong with what CB is doing. There is a lot of interest in a previously unknown guy & they are meeting that demand.

If they were still going on about him next week you guys would have a point, but it's hardly been 24 hours.

@bbpandy: I have no quibble against the man at all; my commentary would be much the same if proves to be the Steve Jobs of innovation. I've read article after article about him since Sunday. It has in fact been 48 hours. More. There's only so much one can learn.

RIM is both wall street's and the media's whipping boy. The only change in CEO that would have made the general public happy was if RIM stole a Apple exec and made him CEO. For that matter it could have been someone from the Apple mail room and the stock would have doubled. Let's give Heins a chance to do something before the entire world calls him a dud.

I agree - the media and the markets don't have any idea how BB10 phones will perform. RIMM doesn't know at this point. But if they keep beating the crap out of RIMM it won't help. Personally, I am sick of the media promoting Apple Products. You can't watch TV without some d-bag pulling out an Apple Ipad or some crap like that. Like owning an Ipad is so cool or something. Look at my new app, look at this photo I took. I am seriously so sick of it.

Apple stocks are down 7 dollars today, Google is down, MSFT is down, Nokia is down. Everyone just focuses on RIM and the sky is falling.

Everyone is jumping on his comments that RIM is headed in the right direction. Wake up people. Jim and Mike already made huge changes by purchasing QNX, TAT, etc and getting the ball rolling on the BB OS. All Thorsten is saying is that he is going to continue in that direction. Meaning he will see the changes through. Did people expect him to say that he will drop QNX, not develop a BB10 phone and sell off all of RIM to the highest bidder?

That's what short term investors like Jaguar wants him to do. They don't care about making RIM great, all they want is $$ now.

He is educated, experienced in the field, clearly brilliant and knows RIM inside out - of course he is a perfect choice for CEO. He has acknowledged the areas that need work, he clearly knows what he is doing and where the needs are. Did people expect him to fall over apologizing? He appears confident and ready to get RIM production in line with regard to deadlines and quality. RIM is pure innovation and they have well built, practical, productive technological aids not just hype, dazzle, and marketing schemes. Their products are the real McCoy. The Playbook is the the only pocket computer on the market. The rest are just tablets. I am expecting great things from RIM and a complete turnaround. This new CEO has a goal in mind, to put RIM in the top three for wireless products, and I expect he will do it.

The continued negativity is ridiculous. Enough BS comes from the Android and Apple fan boys and the tech blots beholden to them, and even fans of BB are believing it! Mike & Jim made the acquisitions and strategic moves necessary for this transition, and Thorsten is hopefully going to give us some real execution that is needed for that plan to work. He stated the areas that need to be improved on. RIM is going all in, so let's see what happens. Changing strategies now would be idiotic. Full steam ahead. If they fail, then so be it, but they (and Thorsten) need to be given the chance.

The new guy is a team builder. You don't build a team by tearing up the previous bosses. He made a responsible statement.

RIM is an awesome company and profitable but it does need to make changes. It has the most customizable devices but the user experience is choppy. Not the easiest device to use. However, it is the most powerful to get things done in my view.

Mike focusing on innovation will be good. That is really what he should do.

I think we all agree that better marketing would be a good thing. So he is right there. Hopefully he narrows down the product line to become more focuses (as Kevin has suggested).

This German will bring efficiency and a bit more order to what started to seem chaotic changes.

RIM is changing but it need to do so smartly. I have a Bold 9930 and I don't want anything else. Some improvements? Sure, but not so much that they lose their way. I love my Bold and I love my Playbook.

I agree. Give the guy a break. I will hold judgement until we see exactly what he can do. I would love to see RIM take back the market share they have lost.

My wife made me buy her an iPhone this week. I hate that, but its her choice. I believe that RIM CAN take back what it once had, but it needs to be spot on in execution. Coming out with BB10 that is both business and consumer friendly and LTE chipset will be key in making that happen. Doing it quickly, and without bugs will seal the deal for many.

Great post Adam, and... "Under the Zeis Lens"... I don't know whether I love you or hate you. You HAVE to keep this as a monthly/biweekly segment. It would be awesome.