Stating the Problem     Incentives, Deterrence, and Defence

Al Green Retires

On October 10, 1991, Al Green decided, as I had a little less than five years before, that there was a lot more to life than being president of Autodesk, and that the time had come to start living it by passing the torch to the next victim. Here's the press release announcing Al's intention to retire and my comment upon Al's accomplishments, issued shortly thereafter.

Will Remain Active as Board Chairman

October 10, 1991
For Release at 1:15 p.m. PDT

SAUSALITO, Calif.—Autodesk, Inc. announced today that president and CEO Alvar Green will retire once a comprehensive search for his replacement is conducted and an orderly transition is concluded. Green will remain active as chairman of the Autodesk Board of Directors. He anticipates the search process will be completed by the first half of 1992.

“Since 1984, I have overseen Autodesk's growth from less than $10 million in annual revenues to more than $238 million,” said Green. “This year, I have directed the company's reorganization to a business unit structure that brings us closer to our customers. Now that Autodesk is structured to address the challenges of the next decade with general managers in charge of each business unit, I feel confident in passing executive leadership to a new CEO.”

Green joined Autodesk in 1984 as chief financial officer. One year later, he was promoted to vice president of finance. In November 1986 he succeeded John Walker, an Autodesk founder, as president and chief executive. Green was elected chairman of the board in June 1988.

“Autodesk's success under Al Green's leadership has more than justified my confidence in him as my successor,” said Walker, a programmer at Autodesk's European Technical Center. “Al's decision to remain chairman will ensure Autodesk's stability during the transition,” he added.

Under Green's leadership, Autodesk became the world's fifth-largest PC-application software company with a 70% share of the worldwide MS-DOS market for computer-aided design (CAD) software. Autodesk successfully completed three public stock offerings, introduced a family of award-winning products, acquired two companies, invested in several others, and established subsidiaries in many markets including Europe, Asia, and the Soviet Union. Recipient of numerous honors, Green counts among his most significant achievements the promotion of a participatory corporate environment that inspires creativity and productivity within the company's work force.

Autodesk, Inc. develops, markets and supports a family of computer-aided design, engineering and multimedia software products for computers and workstations. Autodesk shares are traded in the United States on the NASDAQ National Market System under the symbol ACAD(TM). For more information please call 415/331-0356 or GO ADESK on CompuServe(R).

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ACAD is a trademark of Autodesk, Inc.
CompuServe is a registered trademark of H & R Block.

Date: Thu, 10 Oct 91 21:34:36 +0100
From: John Walker
To: Autodesk employees worldwide

Whenever there's a change in senior management, it's only natural to ask, “What next?”, “What does it mean for the company?”, and “How will it affect me?”.

Choosing a new CEO is the most profound change a company can make. It's the CEO who ultimately determines the company's overall direction and strategy. History has shown that the CEO's performance, more than any other factor, determines whether a company will ultimately prosper or fail.

Changes in CEO don't happen very often—in Autodesk's near decade of history, just twice: first when I escaped in November 1986 and Al took over the company, and the second time today with the announcement of Al's decision to retire.

Finding a successor to a CEO who's stepping down at the pinnacle of success forces a company to decide, at the most fundamental level, what kind of company it is, what strategies it will pursue, and what style and substance of leadership it needs in an industry and market growing ever more complicated and competitive.

There will be ample time and opportunities to discuss all of these matters in the days and weeks before us. Today I'd like to concentrate on something else entirely.

Five years ago Al Green assumed the leadership of a raw-edged start-up company which had come so far so fast it had outstripped the ability of its founders to manage even day to day operations, no less its rapid anticipated growth. Sales were running at $50 million per year, having almost doubled in the preceding twelvemonth. All US-based employees fit easily in parts of the two Marinship buildings. It was clear to everybody, especially to me, that we were careening from crisis to crisis. Unless we started to manage Autodesk in a much more professional manner, before long we'd be blindsided by some disaster or other we didn't avert in time, especially when faced with the legal and financial obstacle course called being a public company.

On November 5, 1986, I ceased to be CEO and Al took the job. The task before him was as easy to describe as it was difficult to accomplish: “Fix it”. His success has been complete and unqualified. Under his leadership, Autodesk has grown by a factor of five, into a company with divisions around the world, well equipped to sustain and accelerate its rate of growth. We have entered a broad variety of new markets with rich potential. We have shrugged off competitive assaults mounted by some of the largest companies in existence. And Autodesk has emerged as the dominant global force in computer aided design and engineering.

But you knew all that. What's easy to overlook, unless you've ever run a company, especially one as fractious and energetic as Autodesk, is all the things that didn't happen. I'm talking about the disasters that bring down the overwhelming majority of companies who attempt to grow from $50 million to more than $200 million in only five years. None of those calamities ever befell Autodesk. Do you know why we escaped them?

It takes a special kind of courage, insight, intelligence, and perseverance to steer a downright weird company brimming with opportunity-crazed wolverines on a chaotic rocket-ride of compounded exponential growth through a technological revolution in a perilous business amid a world that's turning inside out. That's what it took to bring Autodesk from where I left it to the enviable position we share today. That's what now enables us to choose our destiny from a rich selection of alternatives. It's why a strong, re-energised, and quickly growing Autodesk can look to the future with confidence.

That's what Al Green has contributed to Autodesk in the past five years. And today I have only one thing to say.

Thank you, Al. Well done.

Stating the Problem     Incentives, Deterrence, and Defence