Does the sudden departure of Cadence's highly visible chief marketing officer signal that CEO Lip-Bu Tan is preparing to replace himself?
John Bruggeman, the face and voice of Cadence Design Systems Inc. for most of his two-year tenure as the EDA vendor's chief marketing officer, is suddenly out the door (almost), and at least one analyst thinks the move portends a change in leadership at the firm.
Gary Smith, chief analyst at Gary Smith EDA, said the surprising departure of Bruggeman—who will remain at Cadence as a "non-executive employee" through Aug. 14—is part of a reorganization of marketing functions to pave the way for CEO Lip-Bu Tan to hand the reins to Charlie Huang, Cadence's senior vice president of worldwide operations.
Tan, a longtime Cadence board member, stepped into the Cadence leadership breach in January 2009, a couple of months after the previous CEO, Michael Fister, was forced to resign (along with four key vice presidents). At the time, many assumed it was a short-term fix, pointing out that Tan hadn't even bothered to quit his day job (he has remained chairman of Walden International, the VC firm he founded in 1987).
Now, two-and-a-half years later, Tan has won deserved praise for guiding Cadence through turbulent times, reversing the company's descent and righting the ship and, perhaps, desires to hand off the reins of Cadence and return to his VC work full time. (According to Smith, the rumor mill makes Charlie Huang, Cadence's senior vice president of worldwide operations, the favorite to become the company's next CEO).
Of course, this is only speculation, and as far as that goes it seems plausible enough. But what's the connection between a possible new CEO appointment and Bruggeman's departure? Officially, the explanation from Cadence is that the company announced to employees last week that product marketing would move into the corresponding R&D organizations within Cadence and that Pankaj Mayor, chief of staff to Tan, became acting head of marketing.
If Smith's speculation is on target, though, there may be another dynamic at play. Tan is highly respected throughout the semiconductor industry and deserves all the credit he gets for turning Cadence around from the dark place it was in when he took the CEO job two-and-a-half years ago. But Larry Ellison he is not. Unlike Aart de Geus and Walden Rhines—Tan's counterparts at the other two of EDA's "big three" companies, Synopsys Inc. and Mentor Graphics Corp.—Tan has not signed on to the role of being the face and voice of his company at industry events. Whether that is because he is not comfortable in such a role or because he simply prefers to focus on the details behind the scenes, the fact remains that he simply hasn't emulated the roles of de Geus or Rhines as spokesmen for their company's and for EDA as a whole.
Enter Bruggeman, who seems in fact to be most comfortable when at the head of a room full of people and never heard a question he couldn't answer with a perfectly crafted spin supporting his point of view. Bruggeman, despite not having an EDA background, created a whole new vision for EDA that involved playing in a significantly larger market, then trumpeted it loudly and frequently.