Jim Balsillie

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Jim Balsillie
Jim Balsillie.jpg
Balsillie on May 14, 2008
James Laurence Henry

(1961-02-03) February 3, 1961 (age 58)
ResidenceGuelph, Ontario, Canada
Alma materTrinity College, Toronto
Harvard Business School
Wilfrid Laurier University
Net worthDecrease $800 million (2011)[2]

James Laurence Balsillie (born February 3, 1961) is a Canadian businessman, philanthropist and former co-CEO of the Canadian company Research In Motion (RIM, 'BlackBerry'). He is also the founder of the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), Canadian International Council (CIC), Balsillie School of International Affairs (BSIA) and the Arctic Research Foundation (ARF). Following his retirement as co-CEO of RIM in January 2012, Balsillie became a director on RIM's Board of Directors. In March 2012, he resigned from the Board due to strategic differences[3] with RIM's new leader and CEO, Thorsten Heins, who abandoned the licensing strategy[4] that Balsillie was pursuing. He served as a member of the United Nations Panel on Global Sustainability until 2012. In June 2013, the Government of Canada appointed Balsillie as Chair of the Canada Foundation for Sustainable Development Technology.[5]


Balsillie was born in Seaforth, Ontario, and raised in Peterborough, Ontario, where his family relocated in 1966 and he attended Peterborough Collegiate and Vocational School. He received a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Trinity College at the University of Toronto in 1984. He earned an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1989. He received a PhD from Wilfrid Laurier University. In 2003, he was elected a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario (FCA).


Balsillie has been involved in three attempts to buy a National Hockey League franchise with the overt intention of moving it to Hamilton, Ontario. On October 5, 2006, Balsillie made a bid to purchase the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise for US$185 million from former player Mario Lemieux and his partners. On December 15, 2006, Balsillie withdrew his bid to buy the team after receiving notice from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman that the league would negotiate the arena deal on his behalf and the league also wanted the right to take over the team if necessary.

On May 23, 2007, it was announced that Balsillie had reached a tentative agreement to buy the Nashville Predators from Craig Leipold. On June 28, 2007, CBC.ca reported that Leipold had decided not to sign a binding agreement with Balsillie. Though Basillie offered lip service that he would keep the team in Nashville, he reactivated a deal to become the primary tenant of Copps Coliseum in Hamilton and was already selling season tickets in the latter city, which influenced the decision to deny Basillie the Predators.[6][7]

On May 5, 2009, Balsillie made an offer of $212.5 million to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes following the team's filing for bankruptcy protection in Arizona. In a press release from Toronto, Ontario, the offer to purchase was described as conditional on relocation to Southern Ontario. At the request of then-owner, Jerry Moyes, Balsillie agreed to post debtor-in-possession financing of $17.0 million U.S. dollars to allow the Phoenix Coyotes to operate in advance of a restructuring or a sale. A few hours later, the NHL, citing a proxy agreement signed by Moyes, removed him from all decision making regarding the future of the Phoenix Coyotes. On June 15, 2009, Judge Redfield T. Baum rejected Balsillie's bid to purchase the Coyotes from the bankruptcy trustee. Judge Baum's ruling stated that he did not have the power to force the team to move and that Balsillie's June 29 deadline did not give the court enough time to resolve all the issues in the case. On September 30, 2009, Balsillie's bid was again rejected by Judge Baum, who also rejected the NHL's bid. Balsille's bid was rejected "with prejudice," preventing him from making another bid for the Coyotes. Balsillie did not appeal the ruling.[7]

Philanthropic work[edit]

Jim Balsillie is a philanthropist who supports numerous local and national initiatives. Balsillie's success at RIM has allowed him to create CIGI, CIC, and contribute resources and time to organizations such as Waterloo Children's Museum, Grand River hospital, Canadian Olympic Foundation and others. In 2007, Balsillie donated $50 million to the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and the Centre for International Governance Innovation as part of a $100 million initiative to create the Balsillie School of International Affairs. In recent years[when?] Balsillie has made a number of donations[quantify] across Canada and abroad anonymously.[citation needed]

Statement regarding patents[edit]

Responding to the settlement by RIM against NTP, Inc., Balsillie listed several flaws with the U.S. patent system, particularly that too many "bogus" patents are issued. He also stated that the judge in the case ignored later findings by the U.S. patent office that NTP's patents were not valid, and quoted a Newsweek article in saying that the court's treatment of RIM was like "a judge in a murder case pondering execution while ignoring DNA evidence that exonerates the accused."[8]


On March 5, 2007, Balsillie resigned his role as chairman of RIM as the firm reported over US$250 million in past stock option accounting errors after an extensive review. He retained his roles as co-chief executive and director.[9] On May 17, 2007, RIM announced that "Consistent with current best practices in corporate governance, the roles of Chairman and CEO have been separated.".[10]

In February 2009, as part of the penalties and sanctions approved by the OSC in settling the improper option practices, which the OSC called a "fundamental failure of governance", Balsillie was forced to resign as a director of RIM.[10] In May 2010, almost immediately after the OSC sanctions expired, Balsillie was reappointed to the board, (ignoring strong shareholders and investor objections), notwithstanding RIM's earlier public representations that the roles of Chairman and CEO were separated.

On January 22, 2012, Balsillie, along with Co-Chief Executive Officer Mike Lazaridis, resigned his position, to be replaced by RIM Chief Operating Officer Thorsten Heins.[11]

On March 29, 2012, Research in Motion announced that Balsillie will be stepping down from the Board of Directors.[12]


  1. ^ "Jim Balsillie" (PDF). Waterloo Public Library. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2010-11-03. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  2. ^ Globe and Mail news article on James Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis Accessed June 2011.
  3. ^ "Former RIM boss sought strategy shift before he quit". Reuters.
  4. ^ "Multiple Missteps Led to RIM's Fall". WSJ.
  5. ^ Government of Canada. (November 30, 2017). Organization Profile - Canada Foundation for Sustainable Development Technology Retrieved on January 9, 2018.
  6. ^ "Balsillie's bid to buy the Predators nixed: report". CBC Sports. June 28, 2007. Retrieved December 13, 2018.
  7. ^ a b Small, Hentley (June 16, 2009). "The NHL vs. Jim Balsillie: The Battle for the Coyotes". Bleacher Report. Retrieved December 13, 2018.
  8. ^ RIM chairman calls for overhaul of U.S. patent laws, The Globe and Mail, April 6, 2006
  9. ^ "RIM co-CEO drops chairman title". Reuters. March 5, 2007.
  10. ^ a b "Deficient Governance Model @ Research In Motion". GovernanceCanada.com. February 15, 2012.
  11. ^ "Will CEOs' resignation be enough to turn RIM around?". CBC. January 23, 2012.
  12. ^ Russolillo, Steven (March 29, 2012). "RIMM Results Not So Hot; Balsillie Resigns From Board". WSJ.

External links[edit]

Business positions
Preceded by
Company Founded 1984
Research in Motion Co-CEO (with Mike Lazaridis)
Succeeded by
Thorsten Heins