Former RIM CEO: Stepping Down was a Hard Decision, Buying $50 Million in Additional Stock was Easy

Paul Lilly

Mike Lazaridis, the Greek Canadian businessman who founded Research In Motion (RIM) and recently stepped down as the company's co-Chief Executive Officer, is putting his money where his mouth is. Lazaridis wholeheartedly believes big things are in store for RIM, and while it might be easy to dismiss his outwardly optimism as mere lip service, his investment of additional an $50 million in company shares speaks louder than words, though he had a few of those to spend as well.

"I am a major shareholder," Lazaridis told The Record in an interview. "This company has a strong balance sheet of $1.5 billion. It has strong sales of over $5 billion a quarter. This is a strong organization with a strong global brand, an iconic product and a strong future."

If RIM is in such a strong position, it begs the question why he, along with Jim Balsillie, stepped down as co-CEOs and handed the reigns over to chief operating officer Thorsten Heins. To Lazaridis, it was simply a matter of not letting his emotions interfere with what he believes is best for the company. He said the decision was "hard" and "emotional" for him and his whole family, but ultimately knew the company would be in better hands with Heins.

"I absolutely know he will take this company to new heights," Lazaridis said.

Heins has his work cut out for him. RIM faces intense competition from Apple and Android, neither of which have shown any signs of slowing down. Regardless, Lazaridis is confident RIM can compete and has confidence in the next generation of BlackBerry products.

"Would I be buying $50 million worth of shares if I didn't?," Lazaridis said.

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