Hasso Plattner has been looking for a successor for the top post on the software group’s supervisory board for years. Now he has found it. 2024 should be the end for the SAP co-founder – this time really.

Hasso Plattner has allowed himself plenty of time in the search for his successor. The co-founder of SAP has chaired the supervisory board of the software group from Walldorf (Rhein-Neckar district) since 2003. Recently, criticism from shareholders of the sluggish transfer of power at the top of the supervisory body has become louder.

The supervisory board then presented a successor late on Wednesday evening. The manager Punit Renjen, until recently the global head of the consulting firm Deloitte, had been nominated by the supervisory board as a new member and proposed as Plattner’s designated successor.

This ends a long search. Plattner had already announced in 2017 that he would continue – “but not for a full five years”. Then they did. Last year – five years later – Plattner was re-elected to the Supervisory Board for a two-year term. “Putting my position as Chairman of the Supervisory Board in the right hands is a very important and emotional task that I’ve been working on for some time,” said Plattner.

SAP as a life’s work

The 79-year-old has spent a large part of his life at SAP. In 1972 he founded the company together with former IBM employees Dietmar Hopp, Klaus Tschira, Hans-Werner Hector and Claus Wellenreuther. Today SAP is one of the most valuable corporations in Germany and Europe’s largest software manufacturer. Before moving to the supervisory board, Plattner was the company’s board spokesman from 1997 to 2003. Of the five founders, Plattner is the only one who still holds an office in the group.

The company has made Plattner one of the richest Germans. He is one of SAP’s largest shareholders. The business magazine “Forbes” estimates the assets of Plattner and his family at 8.1 billion US dollars. As a patron, he likes to invest his money in art. In Potsdam, the collector and lover of Impressionist paintings built the Barberini Art Museum. Not far away, IT specialists are trained at the Hasso Plattner Institute. The sailor and electric guitarist is also the owner of the San Jose Sharks, a team from the US professional ice hockey league NHL.

Plattner had actually hoped for an internal solution for his successor as chairman of the SAP supervisory board. “But the plan fell through,” Plattner told the “Handelsblatt” (Thursday). It is “not so easy to pull a successor out of the hat”. The search among former board members did not work either. That is why the Supervisory Board also approached external applicants. In the end, SAP boss Christian Klein, who had business dealings with him in the USA, made contact with Punit Renjen. “Punit was interested straight away,” said Plattner.

Successor with “valuable experience”

Should the 61-year-old be elected to the Supervisory Board at the Annual General Meeting in May, the transition process would begin, according to the announcement. Renjen has “valuable strategic experience and understanding of the needs of businesses in today’s rapidly changing environment.” Renjen, who was head of Deloitte from 2015 to the end of 2022, knows the requirements of global customers very well and also the potential of SAP. Renjen said he was pleased to be considered for the role: “SAP is an outstanding company with a key role in the global economy.” He is looking forward to helping shape the future, said Renjen.

The software manufacturer is in the process of transformation. CEO Klein has been driving the restructuring for more than two years. He wants to convert the core business with software licenses for corporate management into a cloud-based subscription model. However, the investments in the future are initially at the expense of the result. In late January, Klein said SAP had now reached an important turning point, demonstrating “that SAP is now a proper cloud company.”

In 2022, sales increased by eleven percent to 30.9 billion euros, also thanks to the increasing business with cloud software for use over the network. The bottom line is that net profit fell by a good two-thirds to 1.71 billion euros compared to the previous year, mainly because the risk investments in start-ups did not contribute as much valuation income as before. At the end of January, SAP announced that it wanted to cut 3,000 jobs – around 200 of them in Germany. SAP wants to focus on its core business with software for corporate management (ERP), it said. The cuts will be in areas where you are less successful.