SAP's Shai Agassi takes over technology development

Ellen O'Brien

SAP has put wunderkind executive board member Shai Agassi in charge of the company's technology development, a move that some observers say will lessen the role SAP co-CEO Hasso Plattner plays at the company he founded.

Many news reports of the move included speculation that Plattner, perhaps the most public face of SAP, would surrender much of his workload and responsibilities to Agassi.

An SAP spokesman today denied that the move would impact Plattner's title or that his role in day-to-day operations would be diminished.

"We've aligned the management and operations of all technology development across SAP under Shai Agassi," the spokesman said. "The press speculation that Plattner is preparing for his departure, and that Shai Agassi is the heir apparent are exaggerated."

Fueling the speculation that Agassi, who was the lead presenter last month at SAP's New York City press conference to announce the new NetWeaver technology platform, would succeed Plattner soon was the co-CEO's noticeable absence following the company's recent fourth-quarter announcements.

Plattner, an avid sailor, was reportedly enjoying the sport while SAP was announcing its most profitable Q4 in years.

Plattner founded SAP in 1972 with four former IBM business colleagues. After Dietmar Hopp moved to chair the company's supervisory board in 1998, Plattner was the only remaining founding father on the executive board.

Whether or not the move means that

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Agassi, who at 34 is the youngest SAP executive board member in company history, is destined to replace Plattner soon, Agassi's rise through the ranks was expected.

"It's clearly a major endorsement of Agassi," said Joshua Greenbaum, pricipal consultant of Daly City, Calif.-based Enterprise Applications Consulting. "Shai represents a real injection of new blood into the company. He's got a start-up mentality. He's an entrepreneur. He does not come out of a German corporate mentality."

Agassi, an Israeli, joined the management board last year, after SAP bought Agassi's software firm, TopTier.

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