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HP Hires Ex-SAP CEO To Replace Hurd

Gamesmanship hit a new level late Thursday

Gamesmanship hit a new level late Thursday when HP announced that it had hired former SAP CEO Léo Apotheker as its new CEO and tapped former Oracle president and COO Ray Lane as its non-executive chairman, splitting jobs that its former CEO had.

Well, if Oracle can hire ousted HP CEO Mark Hurd with his deep knowledge of all HP’s cherished secrets as president, then, by George, HP can hire the ousted CEO of Oracle’s great enemy SAP and brace him by bringing in Ray Lane, a guy described by one of his former Oracle colleagues as a “big swinging dick son of a bitch,” who’s got a grudge a mile wide against Oracle and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison for dumping him a decade ago.

One can imagine Ellison and Hurd getting a real “pee-in-your-pants- laughing” kick out of this one. Uninspired, HP’s stock immediately headed south after-hours having not yet recovered from the shock of losing Hurd for reasons that are still not clear. It declined 3% to $40.80. It had been at $46.25 before Hurd left.

To be fair, the industry is kinda short on messiahs and, according to Reuters, HP couldn’t entice either the immovable head of IBM software and now systems too Steve Mills or its equally steadfast $95 billion-a-year global sales chief Ginni Rometty to take the job.

Apotheker only ran SAP as its sole CEO for eight months until this past February when the company decided not to renew his contract for reasons it never articulated and he quit. Historically a “two in the box” kind of company, he had shared the job with Henning Kagermann between April of 2008 and May of 2009.

Compared to HP’s $130 billion in revenues SAP’s a paltry $15 billion with none of HP’s mammoth complexity. Having spent more than 20 years at SAP, Apotheker has little to no hardware, systems or services experience. Luckily, HP is soft on the software side so maybe he can make a contribution there.

He’s had the CEO bug for a while, having reportedly gotten the job at CA, a defection SAP averted – when the news was prematurely outed by the press – by offering to make him co-president.

Apotheker as CEO proved an unpopular choice with the SAP rank and file. The company’s financial performance suffered across-the-board and for the first time in its history SAP laid off 3,000 people. He made the mistake of trying to jack up support revenues in the middle of a recession but customers rebelled and SAP was forced to offer lower-priced support. The company also flubbed its SaaS Business ByDesign offering, which was supposed to solve a lot of its problems. When he left SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner, the chairman of the company’s supervisory board, said he himself would ride herd over technology and product development presumably an indication of where the board though Apotheker, a sales guy, screwed up.

HP calls him a “strategic thinker” with global experience and proven operational discipline but observers conclude that Lane, who ran sales and marketing at Oracle, has no financial experience and seems to have had no raging success as a Kleiner Perkins VC, will function as a shadow CEO. Lane is new to HP’s board. Before Oracle, he worked at Booz Allen Hamilton, EDS and IBM

The men start their jobs November 1, the beginning of HP’s fiscal year. HP means to have a conference call with Wall Street first thing Friday morning.

Born in Germany and educated in Israel, Apotheker will be HP’s first European CEO and speaks five languages.

Going outside for its CEO is supposed to raise the odds on HP keeping its internal candidates: PC chief Todd Bradley, enterprise chief Ann Livermore and server, storage and networking chief David Donatelli. Interim CEO Cathie Lesjak will reportedly go back to being just CFO.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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