Léo Apotheker, SAP’s chief executive, resigned on Sunday night in a management reshuffle at the world’s largest business software maker.
The company said Mr Apotheker would be replaced with Bill McDermott, head of field organisation, and Jim Hagemann Snabe, head of product development, in a joint-CEO structure.
The German group said: “The supervisory board has come to a mutual agreement with the spokesman of the management board, Léo Apotheker, not to extend his contract as an executive board member.
“Léo Apotheker has laid down his post as member of the management board with immediate effect.”
SAP did not provide a reason for the departure but a senior company executive said the supervisory board did not think Mr Apotheker would be the right person to repair morale at the company after an employee survey last September revealed a dramatic loss of confidence in SAP’s senior management.
Mr Apotheker, whose contract was to expire at the end of 2010, has been running the company as sole chief executive since a joint structure was abandoned early last year.
He had been criticised for delays in the introduction of new business software for small and medium-sized companies.
An attempt by SAP to increase maintenance fees in the middle of the economic crisis also attracted criticism from some customers last year.
Hasso Plattner, one of the founders of SAP and the elder statesman of the group, recently indicated concern over the direction of the company.
Mr Plattner said on Sunday: “The new structure at the top of the company is meant to bring the product innovations closer together with customers’ requirements.
“The new management will continue the strategic direction of the company and the focus on profitable growth and it will further push our leading position in the market in 2010.”
Mr Apotheker’s departure came as a surprise given that only two weeks ago he had expressed great optimism for the group , which had a difficult 2009, a year that was dominated by job cuts and shrinking profits.
Mr Apotheker said then “we see a step by step return of clients’ readiness to invest – although most of them are still acting cautiously”.
He forecast the group’s core revenues – comprising sales of software and related services such as online subscriptions – to climb between 4 and 8 per cent in 2010 from last year’s €8.2bn.
Mr Apotheker said SAP, whose main competitor is US software company Oracle, aimed to gain significant market share this year.