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RIMM: Right Idea, Disastrous CEO Pick

Stocks in this article: RIMM SI RY AAPL HPQ

Besides Heins' weaknesses, the major problems with the governance changes over the weekend are that nothing has really changed on the board of directors.

Barbara Stymiest -- former head of the Toronto Stock Exchange and a senior executive at the Royal Bank of Canada (RY) -- is now the chair. That would be like Apple (AAPL) naming someone like Sallie Krawcheck, whose background is in banking, as its chair. What does Stymiest know about handsets? Additionally, Stymiest has been on the board for five years. If she's going to be an agent of change like Heins, the question is, where has she been all this time?

The most positive news is that famed Canadian value investor Prem Watsa, who is a large RIMM shareholder, has joined the board. He has an excellent reputation. I understand why people like Watsa and noted value investor Lee Cooperman have taken positions in RIMM. But there's much more risk for this kind of value play (because of the technology cycle) compared to some typical value investments in other industries. And Watsa is just one voice on the board.

I suspect that Heins' tenure as RIMM CEO could be as ill-fated and short as Leo Apotheker's term at the helm of Hewlett-Packard.

At the time of publication, Jackson was long AAPL.

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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