Did RIM half-CEO Jim Balsillie’s hockey obsession kill the company?

“When Apple introduced the iPhone to the world in January 2007, Research In Motion dismissed the device as a competitive threat, or so we would learn later,” Eric Jackson writes for TheStreet. “Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis stated internally, according to reports, that no one would want the equivalent of a personal computer on a phone. People just wanted an email messaging device, he asserted — a worldview shaped by the company he’d built.”

“But the death knell for RIM probably came earlier, on Oct. 5, 2006. That was the day the other RIM co-CEO, Jim Balsillie, bid $185 million to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins,” Jackson writes. “That bid began a childish, multiyear quest by Balsillie to buy a hockey team, which diverted his focus from the core RIM business”

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Jackson writes, “RIM’s competitive position today is arguably unfixable because of Balsillie’s quixotic quest.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Pucksilly. One half-CEO had his head in the sand and the other half had his on ice. With Apple instantly turning the game upside down and inside out, RIM was doomed to fail.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “qka” for the heads up.]


  1. I always thought it was strange that he wanted to buy a franchise, even if he had to use the courts to get it, when the NHL didn’t want it. Sure, maybe you’ll be successful through the courts (he wasn’t) but they you’d have to work closely with all these guys from then on.

  2. How was it one half-CEO the cause for the total loss of RIM? I would say it is their vision of the market they had. The downslide started long before the introduction of the iPhone. It wa the fact that they had little vision and even less understanding of the people that used mobile devices. They had no idea how a user could benefit from enhanced services and Apple did. Apple seen how bring the service the iPad had and using it in the mobile phone where it was lacking. Apple, under Steve Jobs, seen how to use a chicklet-less keyboard with an UI that allowed a new kind of freedom in design and use that would give the average Joe new options. We all know how it has ended the model Rim, Windows, and Symbian glacial march.
    By saying purchasing a team was the final blow to RIMM is rubbish. It was a lack of vision and the interest to provide solutions to common problem they never wanted to see. Just their vision counted of what they wanted was the determining factor.

    Here to the crazy ones that think they can change the future! They are the ones that will!!

    1. You are absolutely right. Articles like these are either just as clueless or are trying their best to undermine Steve Jobs and Apple’s impact. None of the pre-iPhone giants fared any better; only the iPhone clones that came after have done well.
      Articles like these only undermine themselves, and will be lucky to be mentioned in the jackass if not the clueless categories by the future historians.

  3. I being say that for years, Jobs unlike Balsillie was always been totally focus on Apple that why it a success. It would not look as bad for Balsille it he actually got a NHL team. A Stanley Cup would dull the pain of a tech company going out of business.

    1. Actually, Jobs has been a Disney and Pixar board member, secured permission to demolish a house in Woodside, and battled liver cancer over same timeframe.

  4. I agree with those who have pointed out that RIM’s lack of vision was far more damaging. But the hockey issue definitely didn’t help RIM in any way.
    And to show just how delusional Balsillie was on the subject, he wanted to move the team to Waterloo, where they would have been geographically infringing on established teams in Toronto and Buffalo.

    1. Not quite correct…

      JB wanted to place the team in Hamilton (my hometown) which does fall within the so-called (questionable) territorial rights of Toronto and Buffalo. Kitchener-Waterloo falls just outside that distance but is much smaller population-wise.

      Hamilton is at the heart of the Golden Horseshoe at the western tip of Lake Ontario, the most populated part of Canada and within easy reach of millions of potential fans (and corporate sponsors).

      Problem is the NHL and Bettman’s failed attempt to force hockey into traditionally non-hockey American markets (and ignoring Canadian hot beds (recent move to Winnipeg being a business exception)) while also protecting the ever influential (but forever unsuccessful) Toronto Maple Leaf franchise from any market competition.

      A second team in the Southern Ontario area has been deemed (has the potential) to be within the top 4-5 valued NHL franchises but the NHL can “steal” $300+ millions in expansion fees vs a lower buy-out and re-location payment.

      JB made no friends in the NHL by exposing it’s underhanded and sleazy operations.

  5. The NHL was keeping another team from locating in Canada, but on the bright side, they kept another idiot owner from joining the NHL franchise owners club.

  6. Hey hey hey!!!! it was not a STUPID attempt. Hell I would buy an NHL franchise if I had the bucks. Did it distarct him? Probably somewhat but remember there was another CEO at the help.

    The distraction was that the Canada hater…Bettman…blocked it with everything he had so that we could get more failed American hockey teams into the fold. Montreal or Toronto could lose every game yet pack their respective arenas. Many of the new American teams essentially have to be a near Stanley cup winner in the hope to pack half the arena.

    Mr. Bettman (pronounced Mr. Asshole) is no friend to hockey or to Canada.

    1. Ballsilly has proven he was not up to the task of running a multi billion dollar corporation.

      You think he would have been able to field a winning NHL team?

      As for new Canadian NHL teams, there will be more in the near future. Toronto, Montreal/Quebec City and perhaps Saskabush could all spring for a dying American franchise.

      Two teams for Toronto. Maybe the Leafs would respond to a cross town rival. Nothing else has worked since ’67.

    2. So tell me this, was Balsillie somehow unaware that Bettman was commissioner? Did he have some reason to expect that someone else had the power to overrule Bettman?
      No. So it was in fact a STUPID attempt.

  7. Bidding $185 million to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins? That’s 1,000 reasons why Steve Jobs would say “no”. Another clueless company I can think of that mirrors RIM’s DNA is Google.

  8. In short: no. Because RIM isn’t dead yet.

    What’s with the loaded questions there, MDN? Can’t be objective about anything, can you? All you have to do is plot RIM stock price to illustrate that RIM is circling the toilet bowl. Getting personal is bad taste, especially when some overpaid corporate executives’ personal sporting activities don’t affect Apple users at all.

  9. Yes, Bettman is an ASSHOLE and Hockey is sacred to Canadians, much the same as the almighty buck is to Americans. I don’t care if Ballisiilisy or whatever his name is goofed on RIM, wre got Hockey.

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