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Walldorf, Germany

It's Official

Hasso Plattner will become chairman of the SAP Supervisory Board after the board meeting in May. Henning Kagermann will become sole CEO.

Observes David

This move has been rumored for a long time; when Hasso did not attend the most recent Sapphire, it became certain. So there is no surprise whatsoever. SAP has risen 4.5% so far today, but presumably this news is tangential to that rise.

Historically, Hasso has been more the technology guy and Henning more the guy who was interested in returning value to the customer. Almost certainly, there will be some shift in the company's focus away from technology and toward providing business solutions as a result of this move, but it will be minor. The company is still at its core a German engineering company.

A former college professor, Henning comes off as extraordinarily decent and even more extraordinarily intelligent. Former direct reports and other people who know him well have nothing but praise for him. Within the company, he has always been seen as somebody who balances Hasso's somewhat mercurial temperament.

From all reports, Hasso has continued to interest himself in advanced technologies and will certainly participate in these discussions in the future. There are also other quite good and imaginative technology people at the company who have been and will be influential.

It will be tempting for people to see the major consequence of this move as a weakening of SAP's technological prowess, since Hasso the visionary is no longer leading it. I think a more cogent worry is that Henning will have difficulty pushing the company in the directions that he (rightly, I think) wants it go. He has had this difficulty in the past, and Hasso's departure, far from freeing him up to do more of what he wants, will add to his workload.

So Says our European Correspondent

Our European Correspondent argues that the timing of the resignation is actually a surprise, for the following reasons:

1. There was no word of a resignation at yesterday's CeBIT press conference.

2. Apparently, the members of the supervisory board at SAP were asked to convene at short notice (by German law, six weeks notice is required unless all board members agree). The board may have convened with as little as one day's notice.

3. Hasso's contract would have expired next year. The shareholder meeting on May 9 would ordinarily have had on its agenda the question of whether Hasso should join the supervisory board. There was thus no reason for an immediate resignation.

For tea leave readers, there are even more factors to consider.

4. The long-time head of investor relations, Gundolf Moritz, left SAP "in quite a hurry."

5. As readers of Short Takes know, there have been rumours about financial problems (none of which we have been able to verify in any way).

The EC also reminds us that a certain amount of potential entertainment has been taken out of our lives. The Hasso-and-Larry episodes are, alas, at an end.

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