HP’s New CEO Is Former SAP Boss Apotheker

Hewlett Packard surprised everyone by appointing the deposed former head of software company SAP as CEO

Hewlett-Packard has hired former SAP chief executive Leo Apotheker as its new president and chief executive, replacing Mark Hurd who resigned two months ago.

In choosing Apotheker, HP bypassed several highly placed insiders, including Todd Bradley, executive vice president of HP’s $40 billion Personal Systems Group; Ann Livermore, EVP of HP’s $54 billion Enterprise Business unit and a 30-year HP veteran; David Donatelli, EVP and general manager for Servers, Storage and Networking; and Marc Andreessen, entrepreneur, HP board member since 2009 and creator of Mozaic, the first graphical web browser.

The HP board also named former Oracle president Ray Lane to its membership. Lane currently serves as managing partner at the celebrated venture capital firm of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Lane was designated non-executive chairman of the company.

Unlikely choice

Naturally, Apotheker will join HP’s board of directors. Both appointments are effective November 1, the company said.

HP’s stock price closed at $42.07 but was down about three percent to $40.82 in after-hours trading.

Apotheker, a native of Aachen, Germany, served at SAP for 20 years but lasted less than two years as CEO of the Germany-based database company, from April 2008 to February 2010.

Apotheker resigned his position under pressure at SAP last February when the company failed to deliver on its cloud and mobile market strategy, losing key marketshare to Oracle – ironically the new employer of his predecessor, Hurd.

Hurd was named co-president of Oracle on 6 September, one month after leaving HP in a forced resignation following charges of sexual harassment by a former HP employee. Hurd has since settled the complaint out of court.

Rough sailing at SAP

Apotheker’s resignation last February came as SAP was locked in a fierce global market share battle with Oracle over the enterprise business applications that both companies develop and sell. These applications include accounting, financial management, general ledger, human resources and others that are the operational bedrock of all large enterprises.

His resignation also came a little more than a week after SAP announced a 12 percent decrease in operating income for the full year 2009.

In May 2010, only a few months after Apotheker left SAP, the company decided to acquire Sybase to help fill out those market needs.
Apotheker, fluent in five languages (English, French, German, Dutch and Hebrew), currently is a board member of AXA and Schneider Electric SA. He is a graduate in International Relations and Economics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Interestingly, Apotheker’s appointment to lead SAP in 2008 was the first time that a large German company was run by a Jewish executive whose parents escaped the Holocaust.

When the Nazis invaded Poland, Apotheker’s parents fled to the Russo-Chinese border. After the war they settled in Aachen, near Belgium. Apotheker was born there in 1953, and later moved to Antwerp.

“If SAP had a pre-war history, I would never have joined the company,” he told The Economist in an interview.