Chizen out at month's end as Adobe CEO

Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen will leave his post at the end of the month, with Shantanu Narayen taking over on Dec. 1.

Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen will step down from his post at the end of the month, the company said this week.

Effective December 1, President and Chief Operating Officer Shantanu Narayen will take over as CEO of the software company and also join its board of directors. Chizen will serve the remainder of his term on the board through the second quarter of 2008 and continue as a strategic advisor for the company until the end of Adobe's fiscal year 2008, which goes through early December of the calendar year.

Adobe appointed Chizen CEO in 2000; he joined the company in 1994. During his time as top executive of Adobe the company purchased Macromedia in 2005, making it a leader in the market for providing development and design tools for building rich Internet applications (RIAs). The company also raised its industry profile, becoming a target of larger software vendors such as Microsoft for its savvy maneuvering to provide infrastructure for this new wave of Web-based applications.

In a press statement, Adobe's Board of Directors thanked Chizen for his "vision" in transforming the company from one known mainly for its design tools to "one of the largest and most diversified software companies in the world." The board said that appointing as Chizen's successor Narayen -- who already was in charge of day-to-day global operations, long-term market strategies and overseas research and development among other core business functions -- will ensure a smooth transition.

Narayen joined Adobe in January 1998 as vice president and general manager of the company's engineering technology group and enjoyed a steady ascent to the company's top ranks. In January 1999, he was promoted to senior vice president, worldwide products, and in March 2001 he was promoted to executive vice president, worldwide product marketing and development. Narayen assumed his current post in January 2005, in time to help engineer the Macromedia purchase later that year.

At first glance it seems that Chizen's stepping aside was a planned transition -- a natural passing of the torch from an executive who has served his time at the top to one who has earned a promotion. Indeed, there don't appear to be financial conditions that would cause Adobe's board to force such a change. Adobe has been performing well financially, and even announced in conjunction with the executive changes that it will report revenue near the high end of its targeted range of US$860 million to US$890 million for its fiscal fourth quarter, which it plans to report on December 17.

However, there have been indications in recent public appearances by Chizen that he was wearying of his post. At a rather unconventional keynote appearance on the second day of the Adobe MAX conference in Chicago last month, he made comments to the effect that being a CEO isn't all it's cracked up to be. Chizen called dealing with the financial community "going to the dentist without Novocaine" and said the transparency of his life as CEO is "weird" and "awkward" because "everybody knows how much money I make and everybody thinks it's too much."

Some also thought Chizen was rather subdued at a recent public appearance at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco, where he also made comments that hinted he was not fond of performing many of the tasks required of him as the CEO of a public company.

On a conference call, executives supported the view that Chizen's move is more a personal decision than due to any financial or business reasons. In fact, Narayen said the company made the announcement that its fourth quarter would be positive in tandem with the executive news "to make it completely clear" that Chizen decided to leave and was not forced out of his post.

For his part, Chizen said he chose to step down because "I'm at a point in my life that I'd like to take a step back and think about what I would like to do with the rest of my life." He said his move to pass the leadership to Narayen was "one of the hardest [decisions] I've ever made."

Chizen also praised Narayen for his "exceptional operational leadership" and said he is confident Adobe will continue to thrive under its new leadership.

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