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Did CEO's Hockey Obsession Doom RIM?

On planet Earth, however, we know that Balsillie was obviously distracted by his hockey forays. In hindsight, it's obvious that the period from October 2006 to June 2009 was when RIM wasn't paying attention to Apple.

Maybe if Jim Balsillie had had his nose to the grindstone at work, RIM could have reacted faster to Apple's competitive threat. Maybe it could have come up with a strategy for mainland China, which still eludes the company today.

Most people agree that RIM didn't really get serious (or desperate) about competing with the iPhone until it bought QNX in April 2010. This is the next-generation operating system for RIM's devices that likely won't hit the market until late 2012.

RIM bought QNX several months after Balsillie finally stopped messing around with hockey and turned his full attention back to the company that gave him the money he had used to try to buy a team.

The final chapter has yet to be written for RIM. Maybe QNX will save it. But it'll have a lot less market share next year when it finally shows up to the party. By then, it may be way too late.

If RIM does blow up, Balsillie will still have plenty of cash that he's pulled out of the company over the years through stock and stock options -- at least enough to keep buying tickets to hockey games.

That will be ice-cold comfort to laid-off RIM employees, however.

At the time of publication, Jackson had a bullish position in Apple.

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Eric Jackson is founder and Managing Member of Ironfire Capital and the general partner and investment manager of Ironfire Capital US Fund LP and Ironfire Capital International Fund, Ltd. In January 2007, Jackson started the world's first Internet-based campaign to increase shareholder value at Yahoo!, leading to a change in CEOs in 2007. He also spoke out in favor of Yahoo!'s accepting Microsoft's buyout offer in 2008. Global Proxy Watch named Jackson as one of its 10 "Stars" who positively influenced international corporate governance and shareowner value in 2007.

Prior to founding Ironfire Capital, Jackson was President and CEO of Jackson Leadership Systems, Inc., a leadership, strategy, and governance consulting firm. He completed his Ph.D. in the Management Department at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business in New York, with a specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Governance, and holds a B.A. from McGill University.

He was previously Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at VoiceGenie Technologies, a software firm now owned by Alcatel-Lucent. In 2004, Jackson founded the Young Patrons' Circle at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, which is now the second-largest social and philanthropic group of its kind in North America, raising $500,000 annually for the museum. You can follow Jackson on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ericjackson or @ericjackson.

You can contact Eric by emailing him at eric.jackson@thestreet.com.

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