Jan. 21, 1944, Berlin.
Degree in communications engineering from Karlsruhe University, 1968.
Joined IBM as a consultant in 1968. Left in 1972 to form SAP. Now co-chairman and co-CEO with Henning Kagermann.
At 15, after his parents divorced, he was sent to a strict boarding school in Bavaria where he had to punch his way out of confrontations with upperclassmen. "I fought for survival," he says.
HOW HE MANAGES
He roils people with new ideas and ways of doing things. While he believes in building a consensus, he sometimes browbeats subordinates. "I probably put too much temperament into it. I can't control my frustration," he says.
SOUTH AFRICAN CONNECTION
He fell in love with the natural beauty of South Africa in 1970 after his mother moved there. Bought a South African resort, Fancourt, in 1992. "Africa touches me," he says. "At night, there's this thought in your brain that a million years ago we started here."
For years, he has competed in yacht races. In 1996, after his mast broke before the famous Sydney-Hobart race, he arranged for a Qantas transport to detour and bring him a spare mast. He quickly made repairs and won the race in then-record time.