Sudden Adobe CEO Departure Raises Eyebrows

The abruptness of Bruce Chizen's decision startles some industry observers, who praise him and his replacement.

Mike Soucie was surprised when he heard Bruce Chizen was no longer CEO of Adobe Systems.

The abruptness of the Nov. 12 announcement surprised him, as did the fact that change was occurring at a time when things were going so well for Adobe.

That said, Soucie, CEO of Electric Rain, an Adobe partner based in Boulder, Colo., praised Adobes decision to replace Chizen with Shantanu Narayen, who was promoted from his president and chief operating officer position.

"I was a bit shocked at this announcement," Soucie said. "Not that he is stepping down, but more of the abruptness of the announcement. If this was planned for a while due to a retirement decision, then I would have expected this type of announcement to be made during a planned analyst or financial call."

However, Soucie said, Chizen is leaving the company "on a high note, as Adobe is in a very strong position for continued success and growth."


To read about Adobe readying new servers, services and tools click here.

In statements announcing the leadership change, neither Chizen nor Adobe board members addressed the reason for Chizens departure, only that his 14-year tenure with the company was a good one.

"Bruce Chizens vision has helped transform Adobe from a company that was known mainly for its popular design products into one of the largest and most diversified software companies in the world," Chuck Geschke and John Warnock, Adobes board chairmen and the companys co-founders, said in a joint statement. "We thank him for his outstanding leadership and contributions to Adobes success during his entire 14 years at Adobe and the past seven as CEO."

Chizen, who will remain on the board through the end of his term in the spring of 2008 and will stay an advisory position through the end of the next year fiscal year, said his decision to step down was a personal one.

"For me personally, the time is right for a transfer of leadership and I look forward to supporting Shantanu as he takes on his new responsibilities," he said.

"I was a bit surprised by the timing, but apparently his exit had been in the works for a while," said Peter OKelly, an analyst with The Burton Group.

OKelly said Adobe will pretty much stay on course.

"Chizen had a unique perspective and attitude; I expect there will be some top-down cultural changes after the transition," he said.

Meanwhile, OKelly said he has the impression that not even Chizen is sure what his next steps in the industry, if any, will be. "But I doubt hes ready to fully retire at 52," OKelly said.

Adobe is scheduled to announce its fourth-quarter earnings Dec. 17, and expects to achieve revenue results in the high-end of the target range of $860 million and $890 million, the company said. Officials expect annual revenue growth for fiscal year 2008 to be about 13 percent.


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