Russell Artzt, who co-founded CA Technologies in 1976 and stayed with the company through decades of soaring growth, a criminal accounting scandal and a push to rebuild, announced Wednesday that he is retiring in September.
Artzt, 68, is a Bronx-born software engineer who helped develop the company's early programs for mainframe computers and served nearly 25 years on CA's board of directors. In recent years he led CA's program to work with computer science students to develop software at Stony Brook University.
"It's been an incredible ride," Artzt said during a speech at the company's facility in Islandia, where some 600 people gathered to send him off.
Artzt founded CA, formerly named Computer Associates, with Charles Wang several years after the two graduated from Queens College. Wang, who is now majority owner of the New York Islanders, was the hard-charging and charismatic chief executive. Artzt, meanwhile, ran the company's research and development operations.
"Charles was the guy out front, and Russ was the guy in the back. At heart, he was a true computer geek," said Gary Quinn, who worked at CA for 20 years and is now president and chief executive of FalconStor Software of Melville.
The company, which was based on Long Island for 35 years, became the first software maker to top $1 billion in sales, in 1989. For decades it was one of the region's largest and most influential corporations. CA moved its headquarters to Manhattan last year.
Wang left the company in 2002. Two years later Computer Associates was gripped by a $2.2 billion criminal accounting scandal that led to the resignation of chairman and chief executive Sanjay Kumar. He is currently serving a 12-year federal prison term for securities fraud. Artzt was not implicated in the crime.
The company went on to enact sweeping accounting reforms. The current chief executive, Mike Gregoire, who arrived in 2013, is leading the company on a push to develop cloud-based and other cutting-edge programs as its core mainframe sales have slowed.
Artzt, who lives in Old Westbury, has stepped away from operational management in recent years. He left CA's board in 2005 and currently has the title of vice chairman and founder.
"I hope I can live up to the standard he set," Gregoire said.
Artzt's retirement party, in a sprawling tent at the corporate campus off the Long Island Expressway, featured a four-piece rock and roll band, a video tribute to Artzt and a giant cake festooned with sparklers.
"This is a lot of fun," Artzt said. "I should retire every year."