August 17, 2020
Shares of Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE) have soared more than 1,600% over the past decade, in no small part thanks to the leadership of company chairman and CEO Shantanu Narayen.
Narayen joined Adobe in 1998 as VP and General Manager of its engineering technology group, then was promoted to Chief Operating Officer in 2005 before taking the helm as CEO in 2007. But Adobe’s core business at the time was still dependent on customers’ willingness to purchase and upgrade expensive, locally installed perpetual licenses of its flagship software products every couple of years.
As mobile apps, digital downloads, and cloud computing threatened to negatively alter the landscape for their bread-and-butter perpetual software license model, Narayen saw the writing on the wall. So, in 2012, he made the bold decision to transition Adobe’s business away from perpetual licenses and toward a cloud-based software-as-a-service model — namely through the launch of its now-ubiquitous Creative Cloud suite of products, which are now reported under its core Digital Media segment.
“Preserving the status quo is not a winning business strategy,” he mused in an interview with IBD last year. “This is a belief that drives so many of the decisions we’ve made at Adobe.”
He also doubled down on innovation, encouraging “intellectual curiosity” and experimentation, as well as fostering a world-renowned corporate culture that resonates with the values and goals of Adobe’s employees.
Today, with a combination of Adobe’s focus on innovating complementary cloud-based solutions and strategic acquisitions, the company now boasts a staggering annualized recurring revenue (ARR) stream of well over $9 billion and growing, with no signs of slowing down even as the world grapples with broader economic uncertainty amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The tectonic shift towards ‘all things digital’ across all customer segments globally will serve as a tailwind to our growth initiatives as we emerge from this crisis,” Narayen stated after the company’s latest quarterly report in June.
Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that Narayen consistently appears as one of the top 10 highest-rated CEOs according to Glassdoor – last year he was ranked 5th with a 98% approval rating among Adobe employees. Assuming he continues to foster Adobe’s dominant industry position, culture, and innovative roots for years to come, I suspect its stock has many more all-time highs in store for patient shareholders yet.
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