After more than a decade leading Autodesk, CEO and President Carl Bass announced that he is stepping down. Bass oversaw the San Rafael, Calif.-based technology giant during a period of major change, including its transition to a software-as-a-service (SaaS) business model from its widely used AutoCAD and Revit design programs.
In a Feb. 7 letter, Bass said he had been planning to leave the role for some time and cited a desire to get back to hands-on engineering projects. “I am not leaving to spend more time with my family—that presumes my family wants to spend more time with me,” Bass joked. “I will, however, be spending more time in my shop with my robots.” Reflecting on his successes, Bass highlighted the company’s shift to SaaS and, broadly, to cloud computing.
He also noted, “We have settled with our activist investors.”
The shift at Autodesk comes after a protracted investors’ revolt by two prominent stockholders. In addition to Bass stepping down, two other board members will resign: Scott Ferguson, managing partner for Sachem Head Capital Management, and Jeff Clarke, CEO of Kodak, both previously nominated to the Autodesk board by investors. Sachem Head and fellow activist investor Eminence Capital each held about 6% of Autodesk stock, making them two of its five largest investors.
In a February 2016 earnings call, Bass likened activist investors to sports-radio hosts. “I watched the game last night, I had a million ideas of what the coach should do, but I didn’t actually have to do the job,” he said. A “standstill” agreement was reached in March 2016 between Autodesk and Sachem Head for the investors to support the company’s decisions going forward. Autodesk on Feb. 8 announced that the arrangement has been extended through June 2018.
A successor to Bass as CEO and president has not yet been named. Bass will retain his seat on the Autodesk executive board and will serve as a special adviser.