Shortly after 3 p.m. the SAP Arena in Mannheim goes dark. One day after the general meeting, at which co-founder Hasso Plattner no longer stood for the supervisory board for the first time, the countdown to his big farewell show has ended.

A light show starts on the 30 meter wide LED wall, then slowly rises. Behind them the SAP Symphony Orchestra begins to play, in front the US singer Anastacia is bathed in bright spotlights. She sings her song “You’ll never be alone.”

Is that the message the 80-year-old Plattner wants to hear? Or the employees in the hall who are now saying goodbye to the previously omnipresent company founder? In any case, it is an atmospheric start to the farewell of one of the most important figures in German business.

Around 3,400 SAP employees are sitting in the stands of the arena, who were drawn in a kind of internal ticket lottery. In addition, around 600 guests of honor from the SAP family walked across the SAP blue carpet before the event began, including Plattner’s co-founder and confidant Dietmar Hopp and Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Like Scholz, Plattner also lives in Potsdam for a time and is very present in the city as, among other things, the donor of the Barberini Museum and the founder of the Hasso Plattner Institute at the University of Potsdam. And a third Potsdam resident takes the stage this afternoon: TV presenter Günther Jauch will lead the afternoon.

When he greets Plattner, applause erupts from the audience. Plattner, in a dark suit, light blue shirt and wide tie, sees himself on the big screen, waves briefly and finally stands up. His place is in the front row between Scholz and Louise de Putron, the founder of SAP’s first US partner company. In addition, Plattner’s family including grandchildren and SAP boss Christian Klein.

The first speaker is also small. In an olive-colored T-shirt and suit, he speaks freely on the big stage, as we usually see from the heads of large software companies. “Now I’m standing here with the one million euro question,” says Klein, taking up Günther Jauch’s moderation. “How can you honor Hasso Plattner’s life’s achievements in ten minutes?”

He then talks about someone “who wrote economic history”, about a “visionary” and “pioneer”, about someone who loves competition, thinks globally and has the “firm will” to learn every day. Old photos of Plattner, his co-founders and SAP are displayed in the background.

Hasso Plattner, co-founder of Europe’s largest software company SAP, is withdrawing from the supervisory board. Since 1972, the 80-year-old has steered the company through ups and downs

Klein then holds up a slightly crumpled, punched cardboard card, a so-called punch card, like the ones computer companies used decades ago. Plattner used to punch them himself and “made the SAP what it is today,” says Klein.

At the end he gives the answer to the million dollar question: “It’s not possible. Dear Hasso, your life’s work is too great to be put into words. All that remains for me and all of us is a humble thank you.” When Plattner is then shown on the big screen, he tries to keep his composed, often slightly grim expression on his face, but seems almost impressed and touched by the words of the man who will now lead SAP into the future without him.

Plattner has now been at SAP for 52 years. With him, the last of five SAP founders is withdrawing from by far the most valuable company in Germany and from one of the most important software companies in the world. Chancellor Scholz gave a speech on the company’s 50th birthday and on this special day he didn’t hold back in his praise.

A lectern was placed in the middle of the stage for him. He is wearing a dark blue suit, the top button of his white shirt is undone. “Hello Mannheim, hello SAP,” Scholz opened his speech, almost like at a concert, only much more sober. “Today the entire global economy runs on the SAP software brand,” says Scholz. “What an incredible global success story from Germany. And you, dear Hasso Plattner, wrote this story.”

Scholz repeatedly makes the audience laugh when he mentions how Plattner likes to “talk low” about himself and downplay his influence in the company, especially in recent years. “Perhaps your influence is primarily rooted in the fact that you keep hatching new ideas, making bold plans, and pushing forward ambitious projects,” says Scholz. “I don’t think you can do anything else. You don’t need an office for that.”

Finally, the Chancellor asked Plattner to continue to intervene and received much applause for this. Plattner smiles. “We in Germany have put off some necessary innovations too much over the last few decades,” says Scholz, such as digitalization and industrial transformation, where the lever has now been pulled. “That’s exactly why I’m expressly grateful to you for this reminder and intervention,” said Scholz. Plattner ultimately knows that innovations are not a threat, “but an opportunity, especially for our country of engineers, inventors and inventors.” After the speech, Scholz and Plattner shake hands for a long time.

Afterwards there is a video message from the Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann, who was unable to attend in person. The rest of the afternoon will take place behind closed doors.

Hasso Plattner, the last of five founders, is withdrawing from the software company. Even if today’s general meeting could be wistful, SAP is well prepared for the future

Plans included a speech from Plattner to the employees, Bill Gates is said to have sent a video message and Anastacia is said to have played a few songs at the end.

When everything is over after two hours, the bright blue flags with the portrait of Hasso Plattner and the slogan of his farewell are still flying outside the arena: “Fare-well done”.

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