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SAP shuffles

SAP named Leo Apotheker co-CEO Wednesday. He will share CEO-ing duties with Henning Kagermann until the latter leaves the company next year.

Apotheker had been deputy CEO. Kagermann’s contract expires in 2009 and he said today he will leave at that time.

In the second half of 2008 “Leo and the new team will be the ones who will do the budget and start thinking beyond 2010,” Kagermann told reporters on a conference call Wednesday.

In a prepared statement, SAP co-founder and supervisory board chairman Hasso Plattner said Kagermann had requested Apotheker’s appointment.

SAP also named its very first COO by promoting Erwin Gunst to that post. Gunst had been president of the company’s Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region.

The moves were decided by SAP’s supervisory board, which also appointed Gunst, Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe corporate officers effective July 1.

SAP is the ERP software leader, but faces big challenges as it tries to navigate from being an enterprise-only provider to wooing and winning smaller accounts. There it relies on its five-year old PartnerEdge program to penetrate accounts that would normally not hit its radar. In coming down market, SAP now must compete with erstwhile ally Microsoft for those smaller accounts

It also faces a lawsuit filed by Oracle over SAP’s TomorrowNow Unit’s business practices. Worse, a major customer, Waste Management Inc., has sued SAP calling the company’s $100 million software implementation in its shop a “complete failure.”

This is not the kind of press any company wants, especially in a tight economy.

Some interesting tidbits from today’s call: Apotheker said the company will continue its move into the mass market. “It’s our intention to move more and more into the volume business.” Hmmm. Volume. Isn’t that Microsoft’s mantra? Interesting…

Apotheker was asked whether SAP would step up its marketing rhetoric even as Oracle CEO Larry Ellison appears to be dialing down  his. The reporter referred to a recent call in which Ellison barely crowed about Oracle’s BEA Systems acquisition. Apotheker appeared to shrug it off: “As to Larry keeping quiet in a conference call, maybe he had a sore throat.”

Barbara Darrow can be reached at

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