HP appoints SAP’s cast off as CEO

Hewlett-Packard, the world’s largest IT company, has appointed the former chief executive of German software vendor SAP as its new CEO. 

Leo Apotheke stepped down from SAP in February 2010, shortly after the company announced an 8% drop in revenues for 2009. Until that point, he had served with the company for 20 years.

“Leo is a strategic thinker with a passion for technology, wide-reaching global experience and proven operational discipline – exactly what we were looking for in a CEO,” said HP board member Robert Ryan in a statement announcing his appointment. “After more than two decades in the industry, he has a strong track record of driving technological innovation, building customer relationships and developing world-class teams.”

The markets seemed less pleased with the news. HP’s shares fell by 3% immediately after the announcement yesterday. 

Some might question why the top job in the IT industry has gone to a man who left a much smaller company following poor performance. During his tenure, SAP’s attempts to raise support fees angered customers while technological innovation appeared to stall.

Others argue, though, that Apotheker had an impossible task at SAP – to grow an enterprise software business during the deepest recession in decades.

“Leo was in the wrong time, wrong place,” wrote Altimeter Research analyst R ‘Ray’ Wang when Apotheker stepped down from the German company.  “He entered a down market while in charge of a sinking ship."

Apotheker’s appointment could be interpreted as an indication that HP might be  forming an enterprise applications strategy, or that it is sees systems vendor Oracle – SAP’s bitterest rival for the past decade – as a growing threat since its acquisition of Sun Microsystems.

HP’s previous CEO Mark Hurd stepped down after a sexual harassment probe uncovered "questionable" expense practices. He has since joined Oracle as co-president.

The IT giant also announced yesterday that Silicon Valley veteran Ray Lane, previously Oracle’s president, had joined the company as chairman.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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