Of all the stories associated with Cadence Design Systems, the saga of Lip-Bu Tan might be considered the most unlikely. After all, this is the company that launched one of the most flamboyant CEOs in the history of EDA, followed by one of the most outspoken, then one of the least prepared given his non-tech provenance, and finally one of the most distinctly over-paid in the history of the industry and Silicon Valley.
And all of that even before the corporate cataclysm of 2008. Few at the company in the fall of that year may have noticed the economy teetering on a cliff, because they were too busy tracking unbelievable developments within their own firewall.
On October 15, 2008, a thorough house-cleaning gutted the executive suite: The CEO, all EVPs, and a smattering of others were out, leaving the company leaderless and without an apparent rudder. Instantly the company stock tanked and more than a dozen shareholder lawsuits erupted from that special place from whence such things spring as spontaneously as lawyers after an ambulance.
Into this chaos stepped Lip-Bu Tan. Admittedly, he was no stranger to Cadence having been on the board for several years at that point, but was neither chairman like Stanford’s John Shoven, nor an EDA household name like Berkeley’s Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli.
Also surprising: On paper Tan looked more quintessential VC than quintessential CEO, given his track record founding and managing Walden International’s $2 billion investment portfolio. Nonetheless, it was Lip-Bu Tan’s name that suddenly appeared in the press releases announcing the new Interim CEO.