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Bored of Directors

Having unloaded the job of President on Al Green in November of 1986, I was still left with the title of Chairman of the Board. As a consequence, I still ended up being asked to “say a few words” from time to time, to come up with comments for press releases (just try being pithy, quotable, and bland all at the same time), and I continued to be the recipient of letters and phone calls from virtually everybody who our company managed to annoy in the course of its business.

Since I am, by nature, about as gregarious as a moray eel, this began to take its toll on my ability to get productive work done. So, in early 1988, I decided to get rid of the silly Chairman title at the next annual meeting so I could program without being bothered. Since we are a public company and Everything Must Be Disclosed, we had to issue a press release bruiting this momentous announcement. Of course one must adhere to the standards of propriety on the financial wire, so we couldn't put anything interesting in the public release. That didn't stop Dan Drake from penning the following internal announcement, which was distributed within the company on April 15th, 1988.

Today or Monday we'll put out a press release, worded more or less respectably, to the same effect as what follows. What follows is the more truthful version for the benefit of Autodesk people. It speaks for itself; therefore, I'll stop speaking for it.

Autodesk, Inc. announced today that John Walker, a founder and Chairman of the Board, will not stand for re-election to its Board of Directors at its annual meeting on June 10. Alvar J. Green, the company's President and Chief Executive Officer, will assume the title of chairman. The board will be reduced from six members to five.

Mr. Walker remains with the company as a software developer, a role he has filled continuously since the company's inception in 1982.

Walker declaimed, “Ever since Autodesk was founded, my primary responsibility has been identifying product ideas, designing, implementing, and bringing products to market. This has been my most important contribution to Autodesk and it's what I do best. My goal in founding Autodesk was to build a large, profitable, financially strong, and professionally managed company that could turn product ideas into successful products that open new markets. When serving as president of Autodesk began to interfere with my ability to do these tasks, I stuck Al Green with the job. He's done it far better than I could have, and he's led Autodesk to its greatest successes. Now I find that far too many pithecanthropoids still think I ‘call the shots’ or want to use me as figurehead for a family of companies operating in six countries, made up of more than 400 independent, talented, and dedicated people. Consequently, far too much of the time I should be devoting to product development is being wasted on nonproductive tasks, merely because I'm Chairman.

“Now that Autodesk has achieved market leadership with AutoCAD, it is even more important that Autodesk introduce a wide variety of new products and enhancements to existing products, broadening the market for Autodesk products. By eliminating the distractions engendered by serving as Chairman, I can devote myself full time to these clamant tasks. Believing, as I do, that our industry progresses through innovation, not litigation, I will henceforth devote all my efforts to product development.”

Daniel Drake, Executive Vice President, remarked, “While he was president and chairman, John invented the AutoSketch and AutoShade products and a number of other things, some of which aren't ready to be disclosed yet. That doesn't mean he wrote a spec in his spare time for some robot to implement; he wrote the first working version of the programs and worked with other programmers through the long process of product development and release. Since that's what he likes to do best, and giving dumb speeches, reading reams of legalese, and talking to boring people on the telephone is what he likes least, this change increases the likelihood that Mr. Walker will continue to effectively contribute to Autodesk's success in the coming years.”

Mr. Drake deprecated the suggestion that Mr. Walker would “do a Mitch Kapor”: sell all his stock and start a new company. “Whatever you say about John, he's quite bright enough to learn from experience. Besides, I'd kill him”, said Mr. Drake in a paragraph he wishes he could include in the release.

Autodesk designs, manufactures, sells, etc. all the boilerplate that we put at the end of a press release.

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