Shai Agassi Resigns – WOW

Wow is all I can say, didn’t see that one coming at all. In fact, given Shai’s position and the perks that it afforded I figured he would stay even though Leo would ultimately get the CEO position. Speaking of Leo, what the hell is “Deputy CEO“? Has anyone ever heard of such a title? Is it a European thing?

SAP is a complex culture and an even more complex organization, I suspect a lot of people will view this as Palo Alto vs. Walldorf, or the Return of Zencke, but the reality is far less dramatic. The bottom line is that life will go on, the depth of the bench will reveal itself, as Josh Greenbaum details in his post. Snabe and Merritt are both exceptional leaders and already well entrenched in their roles.

Doug Merritt, currently an EVP at SAP in Palo Alto, will get the lion’s share of global responsibility for product, and will take ownership of Duet, GRC, and some of the other successes that Agassi helped initiate. Jim Hagemann Snabe, will take over responsibility for the MySAP suite, and in general get a much-deserved higher profile in the company. Peter Graf will gain an elevated position in global marketing. I’ll profile some of the other changes as they become known. Other power-hitters, like Leo Apotheker, Kraus Kreplin, Peter Zencke, and others are staying put or moving into more important roles

As for Shai, the comments in the WSJ about him doing clean tech are pretty interesting, I really wasn’t aware that he had such a high level of interest in such things, but hey after you hang out with the Davos set I guess you just kind of get into that kind of thing whether you intended on it or not. Maybe “leaving to pursue clean technology” is the updated, more believable, version of “leaving to pursue other interests and spend more time with family”.

I’ve been wrong more than right on my SAP predictions of late, but as a friend told me just today “well at least you make them!,” so take this as completely unsubstantiated and speculative. My bet would be that Shai joins either a venture firm or a buyout fund. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were Kleiner given the relationship with Ray Lane and the emphasis on clean tech, but Shai’s experience and energy would be a real asset to a buyout fund that can do big deals, like Silver Lake.

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7 thoughts on Shai Agassi Resigns – WOW

  1. Jeff– In his heart, Shai is an entrepreneur and is very passionate about clean/green tech. I’d discount the prediction about buyouts or VC’s. He’s a builder, not a fixer and money has never been a driver for him. Imagine the contribution a guy with his brainpower, connections and passion can make in promoting clean/green technologies.


  2. Hi Jeff,
    First of all, you would certainly know better than I but in response to you comment:
    “Imagine the contribution a guy with his brainpower, connections and passion can make in promoting clean/green technologies.“

    I would simply say “imagine what a guy with his brainpower, etc. could do with a portfolio of cleantech companies.”

    It’s just idle speculation on my part, but after you have gotten used to the power that a brand like SAP gives you, it’s pretty hard to just give it up and go do a startup, even if you are Shai Agassi.

  3. “Speaking of Leo, what the hell is “Deputy CEO“? Has anyone ever heard of such a title? Is it a European thing?”

    Definitely not a euro thing. In the UK at least a CEO is usually called the MD (Managing Director), unless the company is heavily influenced by the US. I have NEVER heard of Deputy CEO, Deputy MD or any other variation. Sounds like a BS bone they threw out to make not being the CEO a bit more palatable…

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  6. In my experience working in Europe, “deputy” is often tacked onto a title as a signal the person is almost ready for a role, but not quite. (Just google “deputy director” or “deputy CEO”). It has slightly less zing than “co-CEO” but it does indicate the person probably has the potential to someday stem into the role. it also allows the current CEO to better check out the deputy, give more coaching, and ensure the is prepared to someday step into the bigger role.

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