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RIM's New Marketing Chief Makes No Sense

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Tuesday's shareholder meeting for Research In Motion (RIMM) was dead boring, with no real news. As a result, the stock got hammered on Tuesday -- down 6%.

One of the strangest things I found had to do with RIM's new chief marketing officer, Frank Boulben. He did an interview with Canada's Globe and Mail on Monday and a TV interview Tuesday.

RIM CEO Thorsten Heins made a big deal on Tuesday during his remarks on his new management team that he'd personally assembled and was going to turn RIM into a "lean, mean hunting machine." (Seriously, he said that.)

Is there any other position on that team more critical than marketing? For years, RIM has emphasized engineering over marketing. Founder Mike Lazaridis believed that giving names to his devices was silly marketing fluff. So he decided all that was needed was a bunch of four digits for device names like 8900 or 9500.

Previous marketing executives at RIM likely could not have been hired into their current jobs at another company if they applied. The only reason they had such positions at RIM seemed due to the fact that they lived in Waterloo, Ontario, and had been hired earlier in the company's lifecycle and been promoted into their current position.

Therefore, given the company's precarious position at the moment, the marketing role appears to be critical for the successful launch of the BB10 operating system in their new phones and tablets in 2013.

So I was a little surprised by a few facts about Frank Boulben, the man they hired.

The first surprising fact about Boulben is that, although RIM likes to characterize him as a "French telecommunications veteran who has held senior roles at both Vodafone and Orange," his most recent job was the CMO at now-bankrupt LightSquared.

Boulben's defense?

'"The strategy was bang on," Boulben says, noting he signed 40 contracts with wireless giants such as Sprint. "I was not dealing with the regulatory part of it."

The second, more damning fact about him, in my view, is that he is going to be based in New York. I just don't understand how that will work. Either Boulben is going to hire a team of new marketing people who will be based in Waterloo and he will manage them remotely, or he's going to hire his team to be based in New York, completely disconnected from the rest of RIM.
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