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SAP taps Philly’s Jennifer Morgan, Christian Klein to replace Bill McDermott at CEO

The Germany-based business-software giant has struggled through a string of acquisitions in an attempt to stay relevant as clients shift to smartphone- and cloud-based computing.

Jennifer Morgan has risen quickly through the ranks at SAP.
Jennifer Morgan has risen quickly through the ranks at SAP.Read moreDAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer

SAP SE, the Germany-based business-software giant that has plowed through a string of acquisitions in to stay relevant as clients shift to smartphone- and cloud-based computing, has named Newtown Square-based executive Jennifer Morgan and Germany-based Christian Klein co-CEOs, replacing Bill McDermott.

Morgan has risen quickly through the ranks since the James Madison University graduate and Accenture consultant joined SAP in 2004.

Morgan rose to head SAP’s “regulated industries” unit before taking over the region, including Asia and the Americas. She was named to the multinational’s executive board (where she was the first woman) in 2017 and has been widely viewed as McDermott’s potential successor.

As president of the Cloud Business Group, Morgan was in charge of SAP’s Qualtrics, SuccessFactors, Ariba, Fieldglass, and Concur products, on which the company pinned its growth hopes.

Klein has worked since college at SAP, most recently as chief operating officer. He oversaw product development of SAP S/4HANA enterprise resource planning software, and held top financial posts at SAP SuccessFactors.

The company, founded by four IBM veterans in Germany in the 1970s, built its own software until McDermott (a onetime star Xerox salesman), as a rising senior executive, launched a series of more-than-$1 billion acquisitions, from Business Objects in 2007 and Sybase in 2010 through Callidus Software and Qualtrics last year, while overseeing the development of the Hana series of in-memory products.

SAP builds its software at centers in Germany, India, and California; its 3,000-staff headquarters in Newtown Square, Delaware County, is best known as a sales and marketing center.

McDermott had been tapped to run the company in another dual-boss deal in 2010, sharing the job with Jim Hagemann before getting the solo title a few years later. The company’s share value peaked last summer at $138.16, more than triple its value during the recession year when McDermott took over; it has recently traded around $115.

McDermott was well-paid by German standards — which sometimes made him a lightning rod for criticism when SAP shares lagged — but not nearly so well-compensated as such U.S. rivals as Oracle boss Larry Ellison. He lost an eye in what he described as a freak accident during a vacation reunion with his father and brother in 2015.

A persuasive public speaker, McDermott used the accident and what he learned in his difficult recovery in his motivational talks for sales staff, students, and client audiences.