A surprise announcement from Stratasys today: their CEO, Ilan Levin, abruptly resigned.
Levin had been CEO of the giant 3D printing company for just under two years, having taken over in June 2016 from predecessor David Reis, who had run the company since 2012 when Stratasys merged with Objet.
CEO changes are always an important matter, as their ideas and energy shape every company’s future. One of my personal axioms is that “any company/organization inherits the characteristics of its leader”, and if that’s true you can tell quite a bit about where a company is headed based on the nature of the new leader.
Those new leaders are carefully selected by the company’s board of directors to align with their strategic goals. If a company intends on expanding, they will select a CEO with expansion experience, for example.
But this resignation seems very different and is out of Stratasys’ usual pattern. Let’s take a look at some evidence:
Their most recent CEO switchover occurred in 2016 when David Reis moved up to the board of directors after spending many years running Objet and then Stratasys. That move seemed quite reasonable, as everyone needs a change eventually. Simultaneously Stratasys announced the appointment of Levin to the CEO position in a well-planned corporate maneuver.
This announcement is vastly different. Levin resigned not only from the CEO position, but also as a director of the company. Stratasys has no immediate replacement for the position, but says they are opening up a search committee to identify an appropriate successor. In the meantime, Stratasys will be run by David Reis and Stratasys founder Scott Crump, so things will be in good hands.
What does this tell us? For one thing, Levin resigned with very little notice, as Stratasys would have lined up a replacement and had a period of overlap where things could be handed over in a controlled manner.
There’s two scenarios here: either Levin personally decided to resign, or he was asked to resign by the board of Stratasys.
If it was his personal decision, we cannot know why. CEOs resign based on personal decisions abruptly for a variety of reasons, which might include medical concerns, family issues, change of heart or more. Regardless of the reason, a decision from this source should not adversely affect Stratasys.
On the other hand, if Levin was asked to resign - and we cannot know if this was the case, and if so why - it may tell us something about the mindset of Stratasys’ board and their strategy.
It’s curious that Levin departs quite near the two-year mark, suggesting that the two parties may have had a two-year contract for CEO services. However, if the board had simply wanted to let the contract expire and replace Levin, they would have had someone already set to take on the role.
Thus it may be that the Stratasys board asked Levin to resign based on cause.
Perhaps their board is unsatisfied with the performance of the company over recent periods? Perhaps there was a communication issue between the board and the CEO? We cannot know.
One interesting possibility is that the Stratasys board of directors has secretly chosen a different strategy for the future, and Levin either did not agree with it, or was thought by the board to be not the optimal person for that role. But again, if that was the case surely Stratasys would have had a replacement ready.
I believe it unlikely this will change Stratasys’ future strategies in any significant way. I suspect we will soon see a replacement fill the now-vacant Stratasys CEO role and continue the current course.
Unless, of course, we don’t. If that happens we might see a new CEO with a new vision and capabilities. Let’s wait and see who fills the role.