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SAP chief Plattner to step down

After more than 30 years at the helm of SAP, Hasso Plattner plans to step aside as co-chief executive and co-chairman of the German software company.

After more than 30 years at the helm of SAP, Hasso Plattner plans to step aside as co-chief executive and co-chairman, the company has confirmed.

Plattner is set to relinquish his chief executive duties May 9 after a vote at the company's annual shareholders meeting, leaving Henning Kagermann as the sole chief executive of the German software company, SAP spokeswoman Laurie Doyle Kelly said. SAP expects shareholders to vote in favor of the management change, which was announced Thursday at the company's supervisory board meeting, she added. Plattner will head the company's supervisory board.

The 59-year-old billionaire helped found SAP with four former IBM colleagues in 1972. On his watch, the company became one of the largest software companies in the world, with more than $7 billion in revenue last year. SAP, based in Walldorf, Germany, supplies more than 19,000 companies around the world with business-management applications for automating human resources, accounting, and manufacturing activities.

Rumors of Plattner's early retirement from the day-to-day operations of SAP have been circulating for months. Although his contract as a SAP executive board member doesn't expire until the end of next year, Plattner has commanded less and less of the spotlight recently. He was less visible at the company's annual customer conference in Lisbon, Portugal, last year and was also absent at SAP's quarterly earnings teleconference in January because he was racing his yacht.

Last month, Plattner handed off his role guiding SAP software development to fellow executive board member Shai Agassi.

Known for his feisty demeanor, Plattner is credited with being the technology visionary behind the SAP software powerhouse, pushing the company in new directions, such as its entry into the customer relationship management software market. As chairman of the supervisory board, he will continue to maintain offices in Walldorf and Palo Alto, Calif., Doyle Kelly said. Dietmar Hopp, the current chairman, will remain on the supervisory board, she said.

The management change should not have a big impact on the company or its customers, according to one technology analyst.

"There have long been many hands involved in SAP's direction," said Bruce Richardson, an analyst at AMR Research, which counts SAP as a client. "Kagermann is a capable leader and has been running operations for years. And Agassi has proven his ability to shape technology direction. The company remains on course, and users won't hardly notice the change."