Autodesk CEO Carl Bass to step down Wednesday

Autodesk started Tuesday on a surprise note, saying longtime Chief Executive Carl Bass would step down and two directors would leave the board of the San Rafael-based design automation software company.

Bass will give up his CEO post effective Wednesday and be replaced on an interim basis by Amar Hanspal, Autodesk’s senior vice president and chief product officer, and Andrew Anagnost, who is the company’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer.

Autodesk said it has retained executive search firm Egon Zehnder to conduct the hunt for a new full-time CEO.

Bass has been Autodesk’s CEO since 2006. While his departure appears abrupt, both Bass, and the company, said the CEO change had been in the works for 18 months, or when Bass first brought up the idea of retiring from Autodesk.

“It’s time for me to do something new,” Bass said. “Autodesk is doing very well and the financial markets are noticing.”

Bass showed a sense of humor about his career change. In his own post, Bass included a photo of himself wearing a T-shirt and looked like he was standing in a high school machine shop.

“I am not leaving to spend more time with my family—that presumes my family wants to spend more time with me,” Bass said. “I will, however, be spending more time in my shop with my robots. I also have some other plans and will have more to say on what I’m doing in the next few months.”

Autodesk said Bass will remain with the company as special adviser to support the CEO search, and will retain a seat on Autodesk’s board of directors.

Along with Bass, Autodesk board members Scott Ferguson and Jeff Clarke, of Sachem Head Capital, would resign their seats upon the appointment of a new CEO, or at the company’s annual meeting, whichever occurs last.

The Sachem officials joined Autodesk’s board in early 2016 after the company reached a deal deal with Sachem and Eminence Capital to give board seats to Ferguson, Clarke and representative of Eminence after the two activist investors’ acquisition of more than 11 percent of Autodesk’s outstanding shares.

That agreement came after a conference call in February 2016 when Bass compared activist investors to sports fans “who know what the coach or general manager or the owner should have done differently.”

In addition to announcing Bass’ departure, Autodesk also reaffirmed its 2017 fiscal fourth-quarter estimates. For the quarter that ended Jan. 31, Autodesk expects to lose 32 cents to 39 cents a share, excluding one-time items, on revenue of $460 million to $480 million. For its full fiscal year, Autodesk maintained its outlook of a loss of 54 cents to 61 cents a share, on sales in a range of $2.01 billion to $2.03 billion. Autodesk, which makes the popular AutoCAD software, also expects to add 515,000 to 525,000 new software subscriptions for the year.

Autodesk shares rose almost 1 percent, to $83.54, after the announcements.

Photo: Carl Bass, president and CEO of Autodesk, at the company’s headquarters in San Rafael, Calif. on May 14, 2007. (Gary Reyes/ Mercury News)


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