Meet HP's new Jewish chief
Computer giant's new CEO Léo Apotheker studied in Jerusalem, loves hummus, speaks fluent Hebrew
Léo Apotheker, computer giant Hewlett-Packard's new CEO, announced that he will begin his tenure with an "eavesdropping campaign," so that he can get familiarized with the company.
However, when Apotheker visits HP's largest software development center, located in Yehud, or the company's laboratories at the Technion,
he will not need a translator to help him out, as he is fluent in Hebrew, as well as in English, German, French and Dutch.
Apotheker is a Jew who made aliyah when he was 18-years-old, and has a bachelor's degree in economics and international relations from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Apotheker's parents escaped Poland after the Nazi invasion. At the end of the war, they settled in Germany, where Léo was born in 1953. Later on, his family moved to Antwerp, Belgium.
At 18-years-old, young Apotheker moved to Israel,
studied at Jerusalem's Hebrew University and worked at the Bank of Israel after completing his studies.
Apotheker eventually returned to Europe, worked in several financial firms, and in 1988 joined software giant SAP, where he spent most of his career.
Apotheker set up company branches in France and Belgium, and later became SAP's executive-director in south west Europe. In 1999 he was appointed as the director general of SAP in Europe, the Middle East and Africa – including Israel.
He has been on the company's executive board since 2002, and in 2008 was appointed as co-director of SAP – a position he was suppose to share with Shai Agassi, who decided to leave SAP in favor of what would later become Better Place, Agassi's electric cars project.
In 2009, Apotheker became the sole CEO of SAP, and the first Jew to head the German company.
"I am a proud Jew, but I am still trying to understand the Israeli mentality, which is not a simple task," Apotheker told Yedioth Ahronoth during a 2007 interview.
"Throughout the years, Jews had the capability to understand and accept other cultures; otherwise the Jewish nation wouldn't have survived. Therefore, I am also determined to fully understand the Israeli culture," he noted.
During the interview, Apotheker explained his decision to study in an Israeli university: "I was raised in a Zionist home, and learned Hebrew even before moving to Israel. I was the head of the Zionist youth movement, and believe that leadership should be attained by setting an example.
"When I finished my matriculation exams," Apotheker recalled, "I decided to make aliyah. A family matter led me to leave Israel; otherwise I would have stayed here. I married my wife in Israel, and she is a Hebrew-speaking Belgian.
"When I am in Israel there are certain places I always visit. In Jerusalem there's a place called Hummus Pinati, which I like very much. In my opinion, it is the best Hummus in the Middle East," he said.
At the beginning of August, Mark Hurd was forced to resign from his position as the CEO of HP, following a sexual harassment complaint filed against him.
An HP internal investigation determined that Hurd did not violate company policy vis-à-vis sexual harassments, but did deviate from other company regulations.
Hurd had a personal relationship with an HP external employee, who marketed the company's products. The investigation reveled that the employee received payments from the company, which Hurd tried to conceal by inflating his personal expense account.
HP's Directorate was informed of the incident in late June, after receiving a letter from the company that employed the woman. Hurd, on his part, quickly found a new position as the co-director of Oracle.
Although Apotheker's appointment surprised some in the company, he was reportedly pleasantly received.
Analysts believe Apotheker's appointment at HP was not by chance, and signals the company's intention to purchase SAP in the near future.
HP will pay Apotheker $4.6 million only to cover his relocation expenses from France to the United States. In addition, he will receive a signing bonus of $4 million and his annual salary will total $1.2 million (about NIS 4.3 million).
Apotheker will be eligible for a bonus of between 200%-500% of his annual salary, and will also receive 76,000 company shares.