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SAP serenely promises to be less bad

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German software giant SAP has promised to be less bad under its new leadership after losing its chief executive on Sunday.

SAP's chairman Hasso Plattner admitted the company had made mistakes, especially in ramping up maintenance fees.

The rises started in 2008, for new customers, despite user anger and the company failing to provide any metrics to show support had improved.

Plattner said the problems could not just be blamed on Leo Apotheker, who left on Sunday.

Plattner told The FT: "Unfortunately SAP has made a few legal and technical mistakes, especially in Germany. This is nothing that can be put into Léo's shoes. We have made a mistake... I was personally involved in decisions about the maintenance fees."

Apotheker has been replaced by a two-man CEO team of Bill McDermott, previously head of field operations, and Jim Hagermann Snabe, previously head of product development. The continuing role of co-founder Plattner, and promotion of CIO Vishal Sikka, suggests an increased focus on product development.

Referring to an employee survey which revealed deep unhappiness with SAP senior management, Apotheker said, in a memo seen by BusinessWeek: “I regret that I wasn’t able to earn the support of each and every one of you, but I serenely stand before you today with the knowledge - and the clear conviction - that what I did was for the best of the company.”

He said the decisions he took, especially to cut jobs. were difficult but necessary.

James Crawshaw, analyst at S&P Equity Research, said: "We view the management change positively... Apotheker had over 20 years of experience within SAP, but in our view was unconvincing in his strategy for growth, product innovation and defence of the maintenance/support fee hikes. McDermott is, in our view, a much more articulate spokesperson for the company." ®

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