SAP's Hasso Plattner surrenders co-CEO title

SAP's Hasso Plattner is surrendering his title, and this time it's for real. Following months of speculation about Plattner's plans to leave the helm of the company he helped start, Plattner is stepping aside.

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SAP co-CEO Hasso Plattner is surrendering his command post, and this time it's for real.

For nearly a year, speculation has been rampant that Plattner would leave the helm of the company that he helped start. Last month, when SAP executive board member Shai Agassi took over the company's technology division, most industry observers figured Plattner would soon relinquish the remainder of his co-CEO duties.

Finally, SAP yesterday said that yes, Plattner will give up his co-CEO title, and the day-to-day responsibilities that go with it. Plattner will instead serve as chairman of the company's supervisory board, replacing Dietmar Hopp in that role.

Henning Kagermann, who has shared CEO responsibilities with Plattner the last five years, will become SAP's sole CEO.

SAP yesterday posted a press release on its Web site, presenting the news under the heading: "SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner to step up to supervisory board."

"He's moving up," said SAP spokesman Laurie Doyle Kelly. "The chairman of the supervisory board, in the German corporate structure, is a very active role."

"He will be very much engaged in thinking about the long-term strategy," she said. The 16-member supervisory board meets once a month.

Whether Plattner is moving up, down or sideways is not as important for the SAP community as whether the move will impact the company's technology strategies and customer relations.

SAP customers, more concerned with technology than personality types, are likely to be more concerned with Agassi than they are Kagermann. Agassi, the youngest member of the SAP executive board in the company's history, has been the company's most public face in the last year.

"Although Henning Kagermann will step in as CEO," said Yvonne Genovese, research analyst at Gartner Inc., "the real issue is whether Shai Agassi can continue to push the technology envelope the way Hasso Plattner did."

Having one SAP CEO is likely to please those stockholders who believed that having two men sharing the title made it difficult for SAP to communicate a clear corporate image.

It also means that Kagermann, whose careful style is in sharp contrast to Plattner's bold personality, will come under new scrutiny.

"He and Hasso certainly have different personalities," Doyle Kelly said. "I think Henning's probably a little underestimated. He's very thoughtful. He's much more soft-spoken. He's also very intelligent, extremely bright."

Plattner's nomination to the supervisory board will follow a formal election at an annual board meeting in May.


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