January 17, 2006 10:00 AM PST

Autodesk names new CEO

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Autodesk on Tuesday named a 10-year company veteran, Chief Operating Officer Carl Bass, as its new chief executive, effective May 1.

The company's current high-profile CEO, Carol Bartz, will transition out of the post but will remain as chairwoman, according to Autodesk. The announcement comes as the drafting and design software maker in the past 13 months has updated its product line, signed a cross-licensing patent agreement with Microsoft and issued an improved financial outlook.

Carol Bartz
Carol Bartz

"I've always had the view that I wanted to leave a company in better condition than when I found it," Bartz said, noting that she has been with the company for 14 years and it was time for a transition.

She said other issues played a role in determining the time was right for a change, including the pending departure of her college-bound daughter and the freedom and lifestyle change it would bring as Bartz and her retired husband embark on other ventures.

"It seemed like a natural break, and we'll have an orderly transition" at Autodesk, Bartz said. "This is what good (CEOs) do...They keep the company in good hands at all times."

She noted that Bass has a deep knowledge of the industry and Autodesk's customers and partners. Before his appointment as chief operating officer, Bass previously served in a number of roles at Autodesk, ranging from chief strategy officer to chief technology officer.

Carl Bass
Carl Bass

Shares of Autodesk, which have largely climbed in the past three years, slipped slightly in midmorning trading to $42.35 a share, down 53 cents from the previous close.

Bass does not foresee any major changes once he takes the helm at Autodesk, other than what may arise due to shifts in business climate, he said.

"There will be a continuity of the business," Bass said, adding, "Carol has been gracious enough not to disappear and keep working on Autodesk's behalf."

Although Bartz currently serves as Autodesk chairwoman and CEO, her title will change to executive chairwoman in May.

Under the executive chairwoman's post, Bartz will focus on improving Autodesk's global business climate, particularly in China, India and Eastern Europe. She will also focus on working with the company's key customers and partners on their long-term strategies, rather than on securing the next contract with those companies, she said.

While Bartz will still remain active with Autodesk, her pending departure leaves one less prominent woman CEO in the technology ranks, which includes eBay's Meg Whitman, Lucent Technologies' Pat Russo and Anne Mulcahy of Xerox.

"I believe I'm stepping down with a good track record, and that should not take away from what women (CEOs) have done and accomplished," Bartz said. "It would be nice if there were more women CEOs, but it's not my role to hang around until I'm 80 and drooling."

 

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