TORONTO (AP) — Research In Motion Ltd. co-founder Mike Lazaridis said Thursday as he prepared to leave the company for good that the board had asked him to reconsider his decision to step down as co-CEO.
Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie stepped down in January 2012 after several quarters of disappointing results. Lazaridis said he stayed on as vice chairman and a board director to help new CEO Thorsten Heins and his team with the launch of the BlackBerry 10 smartphones, an update considered crucial to the company's future. With that underway, Lazaridis, 52, plans to leave the company on May 1.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Lazaridis said the board wanted both him and Balsillie to stay, but Lazaridis decided "it was the right time" to leave.
"I was asked to reconsider my decision to give up the CEO post, but I promised the board I would assist Thorsten and his team in the completion and development of BB10," he said. "Now with the launch of BB10, I believe I fulfilled my commitment to the board and told them it is now time to move on to my new adventure."
Lazaridis started a new venture capital fund last week and is also a major philanthropist.
Lazaridis said he has no plans to sell his significant interest in RIM. According to FactSet, Lazaridis is RIM's second biggest shareholder with a 5.7 percent stake.
Lazaridis helped turn the email smartphone into a ubiquitous device that many could not live without, but U.S. users moved on to flashier touch-screen phones such as Apple's iPhone and various competing models that run Google's Android software. RIM's modern operating system, BlackBerry 10, faced numerous delays before launching Jan. 31, starting in the U.K. A U.S. launch was further delayed until last week.
Heins, formerly RIM's chief operating officer, took over as CEO and has spent the past year cutting costs and steering RIM toward the launch of new BlackBerry 10 phones. The Waterloo, Ontario-based company said Thursday that it sold about 1 million phones running its new BlackBerry 10 system, more than analysts had expected. It also surprised Wall Street by returning to profitability in the most recent quarter.
Lazaridis said Heins has done an excellent job completing the BlackBerry 10 system and launching it around the world.