4 February 2003 SAP, Europe’s biggest software company, has played down reports that co-chairman and CEO Hasso Plattner is preparing to step aside.
Speculation that Plattner wanted to relinquish control mounted last night when a leaked internal memo detailed a major management reshuffle at the German enterprise resource planning software company.
According to the memo, which has been seen by the German edition of the Financial Times, “all technological developments will be bundled together into one division of the management board”.
Shai Agassi, a 34-year-old board member whose former company, Top Tier Software, was acquired by SAP in 2001, will take sole charge of the new unit, the memo said.
Technology development had previously been concentrated in Plattner’s hands.
The reshuffle led to speculation that Plattner, whose present contract expires in 2004, planned to move to the supervisory board and leave daily operations to his co-chairman and CEO Henning Kagermann. The promotion of Agassi was also seen as a possible sign that he was being groomed for the top job.
“Mr Plattner is preparing his departure. He is arranging his scope of functions and slowly putting it into other hands,” said Helmuth Guembel, managing partner of IT consultancy Strategy Partners International and an acknowledged SAP commentator.
But the software company today moved to scorch the rumours. A spokeswoman said that the reshuffle was designed to free Plattner from operational matters and help him concentrate on CEO activities, including strategy and finance matters.
Nevertheless, Plattner, 59, one of five former IBM executives that founded the Walldorf, Germany-based company 30 years ago, appears to have been taking a less prominent role recently.
He missed the annual results press conference last week, when the company beat its profits target for 2002. And the keen sailor was competing in a yacht race while SAP’s ‘Sapphire’ customer fair was taking place in Portugal last September.
However, the SAP spokeswoman, referring to a German term for people growing tired of strenuous jobs, added: “Contrary to what everyone is saying, Hasso isn’t Amtsmuede. He isn’t retiring.”