SAP CEOs are like Highlanders - there can be only one

"Our Bill's missing a Jim" says founder


Circumstance, it seems, has forced SAP to abandon its beloved dual-chief-executive model.

Company co-CEO Bill McDermott will be flying solo in 10 months and a new co-CEO will not be named by the software giant following the resignation of current co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe, who has been selected for election to SAP's supervisory board at next May's AGM.

The reason given for McDemott's solo act was a lack of suitable partners.

“I can’t find another Jim and match him up with Bill,” SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner said Tuesday.

He said the co-CEO model worked "fabulously" but only in certain situations. You need: "Two people who can work with trust and without jealousy."

The reason Snabe is going is because he only agreed to the CEO's position for a four-year period, Plattner said. The exec along with McDermott was appointed following Leo Apotheker's exit in February 2010.

Snabe had a contract until 2017, like McDermott, but Plattner passed this off as an administrative necessity. He's been released from the contract.

His exit follows the reporting of a second quarter that saw weaker than expected earnings, blamed on performance in China. The company also called Europe "challenging."

Before Apotheker's solo act, Apotheker had served as joint CEO with Henning Kagermann.

Apotheker then became sold CEO for just ten months before he and SAP decided not to renew the contract by mutual agreement. The man then went on to do some sweet, sweet work at HP for just ten months.

Without a suitable wingman for McDermott, Plattner reckoned he was unwilling to risk repeating the model. He added SAP development had been "streamlined" and a new leadership had been put in place beneath the board to accommodate the new regime.

He added SAP had a "tremendous leader" in McDermott.

McDermott has a strong sales background while Snabe's heritage is product development and customers. And the SAP UK and Ireland User Group expressed concern at what the loss of Snabe means for customers.

Plattner countered that McDermott is a "very strong technologist" whose "been challenging our CRM strategy."

"We have a very strong team in development, in sales and services and I'm very confident SAP is set up for the biggest transition in our industry and our history to the cloud at this year and at the beginning of next year," Plattner said. "We will still support customers on premises and the customer on premises will benefit from the improvements in software."

For his part, McDermott called SAP's business model unique. "We stayed focused on business software and others didn't," he said without naming any names.

A US citizen, McDermott promised to try to learn to speak more German and spend more time in Germany to assuage concerns SAP is becoming more American. ®

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