SAP hails Apotheker as co-CEO

SAP announced today (2 April) that deputy CEO Leo Apotheker has been promoted to co-CEO and will serve along with CEO Henning Kagermann, a move that positions Apokether as Kagermann's likely successor to lead the enterprise software giant.

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SAP announced today (2 April) that deputy CEO Leo Apotheker has been promoted to co-CEO and will serve along with CEO Henning Kagermann, a move that positions Apokether as Kagermann's likely successor to lead the enterprise software giant.

"Henning Kagermann requested that the supervisory board appoint Leo Apotheker as co-CEO in order to prepare him as successor in the best possible way during the remainder of Henning's tenure," Hasso Plattner, SAP co-founder and supervisory board chairman said in a statement. "The supervisory board today followed his request."

Plattner said during a conference call Wednesday that after Kagermann's contract expires, there is "no plan" to replace him, "but that doesn't mean SAP refrains from a potential construction ... with a co-CEO."

Apotheker ascended to the deputy CEO slot last year following the departure of Shai Agassi, a young and rising star at SAP who had been viewed as a possible successor for the top job. But when Kagermann's contract was extended to 2009, Agassi decided not to wait, SAP said at the time. Agassi is now involved in alternative energy.

Apotheker joined SAP in 1988, and has since served in a variety of executive roles.

SAP also announced Wednesday that three other executives - Bill McDermott, Erwin Gunst and Jim Hagemann Snabe - will join the company's executive board effective 1 July.

McDermott, now head of SAP Americas and Asia-Pacific Japan, will oversee all sales regions worldwide.

Snabe, a 15-year veteran of SAP, will manage the development of SAP Business Suite and the company's NetWeaver platform.

Gunst, who is president of the company's Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) division, will fill a newly created chief operating officer slot, and "aim to further improve the company's operations and process efficiency," according to a statement.

Other executive board members' and corporate officers' responsibilities have not changed, according to SAP.

Overall the board's makeup reflects SAP's broadening international reach, the executives noted during the conference call. "We have now four non-Germans on the SAP board. This is a significant change," Plattner said.

One observer said Apotheker's appointment "comes as no surprise."

"In the past, SAP has had a very orderly and transparent process with having co-CEO's for not only succession but transition," said Ray Wang, an analyst with Forrester Research, in an e-mail.

"The appointment of the three other board members also recognizes the future transition for not only sales but R&D and ops," Wang added. "Snabe has played a strong role in building out industry solutions. Gunst has the unique role of being the first COO of SAP focusing on process efficiency as SAP seeks margin improvement in its operations."

Marc Songini, an analyst with Nucleus Research, said SAP's decision to clearly align Apotheker as Kagermann's successor is strategic, but only to a degree.

"My initial thought is that they don't want to lost another top flight exec like they did with Shai," Songini said by e-mail Wednesday. "I don't think it will change the company direction."