What's the best way to reward executives for lighting a company on fire and burning it to the ground? Give them multi-million dollar golden parachutes, naturally.
If there are two former executives less deserving than Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie of a huge payday on their way out the door, I don't know who they are.
The two former co-CEOs of Research In Motion each earned a hefty severance package when they left the troubled smartphone maker earlier this year, securities filings show. According to the firm's recent 6-K, Balsillie was given $7.93 million in salary, bonus, and severance. Lazaridis earned about half as much in salary and other awards, at $3.96 million. Lazaridis also managed to score a company car and driver and a 10-year extension on health coverage for himself and his family.
That's gotta sting a bit for the thousands of RIM employees who have already--or soon will--lose their jobs thanks to these two bumbling buffoons.
Lazaridis famously dismissed the iPhone when it was first announced, believing that smartphone owners cared more about precious battery life than a full HTML browser and a large display. RIM continued to develop smartphones using its aging platform with nothing but incremental hardware updates for years.
The company's newest platform, BlackBerry 7, reached the market in August 2011. Balsillie predicted that it would save the company and bring back RIM's market share. Instead, BlackBerry 7 devices have fizzled in the face of amazing devices like the iPhone 4S, Samsung Galaxy S II, HTC Amaze 4G, and others.
RIM's board finally came to its senses, and the two co-CEOs resigned early this year to be replaced by Thorsten Heins. In the five months Heins has been in the leadership role, he's demonstrated that he knows how serious RIM's position is. Heins is effecting real change and is pushing the company to bring BlackBerry 10 to market as quickly as possible. Unfortunately for Mr. Heins, the smartphone market innovates and competes at the highest level.
Despite their inability to successfully lead the company they founded, the two men did have a meaningful impact on the overall smartphone space.
"Messrs. Lazaridis and Balsillie revolutionized the worldwide wireless industry with the introduction of the BlackBerry and forever changed how the world communicates," reads a portion of RIM's 6-K. "Under their leadership, the Company successfully navigated many challenges and quickly scaled to become a global company and industry leader with sales in over 175 countries and more than 17,000 employees worldwide. Over the last decade, the Company experienced tremendous growth, with annual revenues increasing from $294 million to just under $20 billion."
For some perspective, RIM's shares hit a high of $33.54 in the last year. Today and for many of the weeks and months prior to today, its stock is in the $9 - $11 range. That leaves little for RIM shareholders to be grateful about.
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