Autodesk’s Carl Bass to step down as CEO

Feb 7, 2017 | Hot Topics

Autodesk today announced that Carl Bass will step down as CEO effective February 8. The company also said that the board has started a CEO search and has “formed an Interim Office of the Chief Executive to oversee the company’s day-to-day operations”. I have no inside knowledge, but it seems that this was motivated by an agreement with an activist shareholder, who also insisted on other changes to the board of directors. I could be wrong, though, since the press release says that the company began discussing a possible CEO transition 18 months ago; I’m not sure when Sachem and other shareholders began to push on Autodesk to speed up the subscription transition.

The Interim Office of the Chief Executive will be headed by Amar Hanspal, SVP and chief product officer, and Andrew Anagnost, SVP and chief marketing officer, who will be interim co-chief executive officers.

Mr. Bass himself said in the press release, “It’s been my honor to lead Autodesk through this exciting period of growth and change. I’m very proud of everything we accomplished – from both a business and technology perspective. Our cloud and subscription business is well underway. The company’s strategy is working, the management team is strong and it’s the right time for me to step aside. Autodesk is poised for even greater success as it enters this next phase. I’m looking forward to my next adventure but will continue working with the company through my role as a board member and am committed to ensuring that the cloud and subscription business model will continue to be successful.”

The announcement also says that “Mr. Bass will remain on staff as a special advisor to the company in support of the transition to a new CEO. He will continue to sit on the Autodesk board of directors and will be nominated for reelection at the 2017 annual meeting of shareholders.”

If this is meant to reassure investors, it’s not working. At 9:30, when the New York Stock Exchange is just opening, Autodesk’s share price is down 1%.

More on this when there’s time – but it’s a real bummer. Mr. Bass is always interesting, incredibly smart and quick to see patterns that could lead to fascinating new developments. Of course, Mr. Hanspal and Mr. Anagnost are not dummies – but we’ll miss Mr. Bass’ “say anything and take no prisoners” approach. And his stories about his machine shop.