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'Proud' RIM supremo survives shareholder showdown

Board reelected, stock tumbles

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Research in Motion faced some seriously ticked off shareholders at its annual general meeting yesterday, who received little in the way of comfort from the BlackBerry-maker's board.

CEO Thorsten Heins and chairwoman Barbara Stymiest told the gathering that RIM was staying the course of strategically reviewing itself, cutting costs and pinning all its hopes on the much-delayed operating system BlackBerry 10.

"We are a proud company with a strong global brand and significant strengths and assets and while we are going through a major technological and business transition, I am proud to be part of this company and part of the effort underway to redefine its future," Heins said.

"We are working around the clock to successfully complete the transition path we are on."

But stockholders were by and large unimpressed by the direction of the firm. One shareholder said he was happy to see the company cutting costs, pointing out that the venue for the AGM was "less swanky" than last year and lacked refreshments - prompting laughter from the audience. Overall, the questions and comments from investors revealed their frustration.

Shareholders also asked why the board lacked diversity, with most directors coming from North America and Canada, when the company has such large markets in Asia. The board was re-elected with one addition by shareholders, despite their grumbles, and chairwoman Stymiest said it was still seeking other new directors as well.

There were also a number of questions about BlackBerry 10's delay, which Heins tried to explain.

"The change in timeline is not related to the quality of the platform nor the architecture nor the functionality," he said, claiming the delay was due to software integration taking longer than the firm thought it would.

BB10 now won't be released until the first quarter of next year, missing out on the Christmas sales period, and coming over a year late.

Heins claimed developers working on the platform are excited by the new OS, although shareholders complained that this rhetoric was expected and that were unconvinced that it will be as awesome as the chief exec believed.

Stockholders also raised the option of selling off all or part of the company and questioned Heins' million-dollar salary, as well as pointing out issues with existing RIM products such as a lack of accessories for the PlayBook.

Despite the board's attempts, RIM investors were not feeling particularly reassured and shares dropped nearly five per cent after the meeting. ®

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