February 4, 2003 1:06 PM PST

SAP chief gives up development duties

SAP Chief Executive Hasso Plattner has relinquished his role guiding technology development at the German software company, an SAP representative confirmed Tuesday.

In an internal e-mail Monday, the 59-year-old chief, who also serves as co-chairman of SAP, announced the decision to hand off day-to-day oversight of the company's software development activities to fellow SAP executive board member Shai Agassi.

Plattner will continue in his role as co-chief executive and co-chairman in charge of corporate strategy, marketing and communications, said SAP spokeswoman Laurie Doyle Kelly.

Plattner's contract as an executive board member of SAP expires at the end of next year, and rumors have circulated for months that the charismatic leader is planning his retirement from the company he co-founded more than 30 years ago.

Doyle Kelly denied rumors of Plattner's imminent departure but said SAP is discussing plans for his succession. She insisted, however, that Plattner is still "very much engaged in running the company," along side co-chairman and co-CEO Henning Kagermann.

Still, 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 he missed its quarterly earnings teleconference last week because he was busy racing his yacht.

Agassi, 34, joined SAP in 2001 when the Walldorf, Germany-based company acquired Top Tier Software, which he led as chief executive. SAP promoted Agassi, who works from SAP's Palo Alto, Calif., offices, to executive board member last year. He is already in charge of key development projects at the company, such the new Web services initiative SAP announced last month, Doyle Kelly said.

SAP is one of the largest makers of corporate software in the world, with more than $8 billion in sales last year.


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