Bruce Chizen Biography

Chief Executive Officer of Adobe Systems Inc.

Born c. 1955, in New York, NY. Education: Received degree from Brooklyn College.


Office —Adobe Systems Inc., 345 Park Ave., San Jose, CA 95110–2704.


Began as sales representative for housewares in the catalog–showroom industry, late 1970s; with Mattel Electronics after 1980, and became merchandising manager for the company's Eastern U.S. region; joined Microsoft Corporation, 1983, and served as East Coast sales director; senior founding executive with Apple Computer's Claris Corporation after 1987; vice president and general manager of Claris Clear Choice; joined Adobe Systems Inc., 1994, and rose to vice president of products and marketing, became president, April, 2000; became chief executive officer, December, 2000.


Since becoming president and chief executive officer of Adobe Systems Inc., Bruce Chizen has taken the image–creation software powerhouse toward major market domination. One of the company's innovations, the Adobe Reader, is installed on some 500 million computers around the world, but it remains freeware. Chizen's mission since taking over at its Silicon Valley headquarters in late 2000 has been to deploy a strategy that will make the $250 Adobe software the leading product in document management companies on the planet.

Chizen was born in the mid–1950s and grew up in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Canarsie, just outside

Bruce Chizen
New York City. He was the middle child in a family of three, and was a shy, slightly overweight adolescent when his parents divorced. The situation placed him even more outside the realm of standard teenage life at the time, he told Forbes writer Erika Brown. "I had a tough upbringing, but I was determined to overcome it," he recalled. There was a family owned appliance store in the Flatbush part of Brooklyn, where Chizen's father worked as a salesperson, and after graduation from Brooklyn College he followed in his father's footsteps, taking a job hawking merchandise to the catalog–showroom retail industry. He remained leery about his future prospects for a career in sales, however. "I hated it," he said in the Forbes interview. "I always wanted to be more than a sales guy."

Despite his aversion, Chizen nevertheless did stay in sales. In 1980, he was hired by Mattel Electronics, and within a few years had reached the executive level as a marketing person for its thriving videogame sector. From there he went on to a job with a promising newcomer, the Microsoft Corporation, in 1983. He eventually became the company's East Coast sales director, and jumped ship in 1987 to take a post with Microsoft's arch–rival, Apple Computer. Chizen was a founding executive at Apple's software spin–off, the Claris Corporation, and held positions in sales and worldwide marketing before becoming vice president and general manager of Claris Clear Choice, a utility suite for data protection.

Chizen joined Adobe in 1994, just a year after the company launched its innovative Adobe Acrobat software. It was the next in a long series of successes for the Silicon Valley firm, founded in 1982 by Chuck Geschke and John Warnock, two former Xerox employees. The company first made inroads into the nascent computer industry with its Postscript printing software, and made the some of the first widely used products—Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop—that launched the desktop–publishing revolution. Acrobat, which went on the market in 1993, enabled relatively novice computer users to create a Portable Document Format (PDF) file, which yielded a legible screen document that printed exactly as it appeared. Acrobat was a great innovation in document–imaging software, and the company gave away a half–billion copies of the Reader, which was needed to view such files; they were either bundled into new computer software packages or available as a free download on the company website. Adobe executives hoped that users would eventually buy the $250 Acrobat software needed to create such PDFs, but the idea never caught on outside of the publishing and advertising world.

At Adobe, Chizen served as vice president of products and marketing, and had great success with the launch of PhotoDeluxe, a consumer–friendly version of its best–selling Photoshop. But Chizen began to see that the company had no long–term strategy in place to keep up with the ever–changing market, and began to strategize how Acrobat might become more of a revenue–generator. The chance to implement his ideas came when Geschke decided to leave the president post in early 2000, and Chizen was named to replace him. Later that year, Warnock also stepped aside as chief executive officer to became the company's first chief technology officer instead; Chizen took the CEO position. After nearly 20 years of running the company, the 60–year–old Warnock told Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News writer Jon Fortt, "I don't want to go to these operations meetings anymore."

Chizen began pushing the idea of selling Acrobat to a wider spectrum of clients. It was already the standard format for annual corporate reports, school–board meeting minutes, and other unwieldy documents available online, and Chizen's newly created marketing team began successfully touting it to companies like Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant, which used it to create and manage the stringent, complex application process necessary for Food and Drug Administration product approval. Adobe also began selling Acrobat to governmental agencies that utilized it to speed up the permit process. Under Chizen's watch, Adobe acquired the Canadian data–management company, Accelio.

With the downturn in the economy in 2001, Chizen's vision was all the more crucial to the company's fortunes: the advertising market suddenly bottomed out, and it was necessary to find new revenue sources. He still reported to Geschke and Warnock, but obtained approval for a restructuring plan that laid off or reassigned nearly 700 employees out of 3,000 worldwide in 2002. A new marketing strategy divided Acrobat's potential customers into three distinct groups—corporations, design professionals, and consumers—and in mid–2002 the company launched an expensive print campaign in the mainstream media, touting Acrobat's multitude of uses. That was followed several months later by a series of lavishly produced television commercials for the newly renamed Adobe Reader. By September of 2003, Adobe stock had continued its strong earnings performance, thanks to Chizen's well–executed plans. The price of a share rose eight percent in just one day, to $39.46, after it announced that revenues for the third quarter for Acrobat had jumped 12 percent.

In an article he wrote for London's Daily Telegraph in 2002, Chizen chronicled one meeting–packed business trip to Europe that entailed "six cities, four countries, 18,000 air miles, and innumerable airport check–ins—and all within five days," he wrote. He met with new clients like the UK Online Initiative, a British plan to put all available government services online, but admitted that though his company's innovative Acrobat software was designed to make information–sharing among far–flung work teams much easier, a personal appearance was still a necessity. "Although we do more and more digitally and remotely," he concluded, "you simply cannot replace face–to–face meetings."


Brandweek, May 19, 2003, p. 16.

Computer Reseller News, December 9, 2002, p. 26.

Daily Telegraph (London, England), May 16, 2002, p. 67.

Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News, December 14, 2000.

Forbes, July 7, 2003, p. 105.

New York Times, July 7, 2003, p. C1; September 12, 2003, p. C4.

Publishers Weekly, March 11, 2002, p. 14.

Carol Brennan

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