Plattner Steps Down at SAP

Co-CEO will leave post in May, take up a spot on the German software giant's supervisory board.

Hasso Plattner, for many the face of German software giant SAP AG, is leaving the helm of the enterprise software company he founded more than 30 years ago.

SAP announced Thursday that Plattner plans to leave the post of Co-CEO, which he shares with Henning Kagermann, at the companys annual meeting on May 9. He will move from SAPs Executive Board to its Supervisory Board. Kagermann will stay on as sole CEO.

Co-founder Dietmar Hopp, who currently chairs the Supervisory Board, will step aside so that Plattner can lead that board.

As chair of the Supervisory Board of the German company, Plattner will be much more actively involved in the running of SAP than the chair of a public company in the United States would be, SAP spokeswoman Laurie Doyle Kelly said. The Supervisory Board meets monthly and gives approval operational changes that the CEO and Executive Board implement.

Plattner probably decided to move to the Supervisory Board sooner than he might have because of changes in German law over the past 12 months that allow the chairman of a companys Supervisory Board to be more active in the companys activities, Doyle Kelly said.

The changes "enable Hasso to play a role more like the Microsoft model where [Bill] Gates is the chairman and [Steve] Ballmer is the CEO," Doyle Kelly said.

The move was not unexpected, but the timing was not previously clear. At an Executive Board meeting last month Plattner handed over some of his responsibilities for heading up SAP technology development to Shai Agassi, a fast-rising star at the company. Agassi founded portal development company TopTier and came to SAP two years ago when SAP bought his company.

Kagermann came to SAP in 1982 and was appointed Co-CEO in 1998. The company credited him with moving SAP to focus on selling complete solutions, rather than simply point products. In Plattners absence, Kagermann will be solely responsible for day-to-day operations.

Plattner said in a statement that he looked forward to devoting all of his energies to being the company visionary.

"I believe that I can create more value for SAP and our worldwide customers by focusing my time and energy on mid- to long-term strategic issues," Plattner said.

"SAP has done a good job at preparing the ground for this," said Joshua Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting, in Daly City, Calif. "The one thing that will be missed on a day-to-day thing is Hassos ability to close a deal."

Going forward, Kagermann and Plattner, like the heads of other enterprise application vendors, will have to align SAP so it can close a larger volume of smaller sales, Greenbaum said. At the same time the company has to solidify the product side of the NetWeaver architecture it introduced earlier this year.

"They want to be known as a technology vendor, they have a lot of big technology competitors [like] IBM and Microsoft," Greenbaum said.

(Editors Note: This story has been updated since it was first posted to include comments from SAP and Greenbaum.)

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