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Bill McDermott

Anjali Sundaram | CNBC

SAP said on Thursday that Bill McDermott is stepping down as CEO after more than nine years running the German software company.

Board members Jennifer Morgan and Christian Klein have been appointed co-CEOs effective immediately, SAP said in a statement. McDermott, 58, will stay on as an adviser until the end of the year. 

“For the past decade, McDermott has served as CEO and has overseen a period of dramatic growth for SAP, including expanding its portfolio and initiating a major shift to cloud computing,” the statement said. “Under McDermott’s leadership, key metrics including market value, revenue, profits, employee engagement and environmental sustainability have all strengthened substantially since 2010.”

The company’s stock is up 21% this year.

SAP, which develops database software and tools that companies use to manage their spending and day-to-day activities, also pre-announced third-quarter results, and beat expectations in part because of a cloud customer. The company said that a “cloud deal with a major partner” accounted for 17 percentage points of new cloud bookings growth in the quarter. SAP said it will start recognizing revenue from the three-year deal in the fourth quarter. New cloud bookings jumped 38% in the quarter. 

McDermott joined SAP in 2002 and became CEO in 2010. He’s also on the boards of Ansys, Secureworks and Under Armour. His departure comes almost exactly a month after Oracle announced that one of its two CEOs, Mark Hurd, is taking a leave of absence for health reasons, nine years after joining from Hewlett-Packard. Oracle and SAP have both faced the challenge in recent years of moving from desktop software to the cloud to meet customer demand. 

“Historically, SAP’s software was not known for being user friendly but instead for its somewhat clunky user interfaces,” McDermott wrote in his 2014 memoir, Winners Dream: A Journey from Corner Store to Corner Office. “Going forward, we had to make our software easier for the consumer to use. I loved that this was how technology was evolving.”

McDermott is recognizable for the dark-tinted glasses he wears in public, the result of an eye accident in 2015 and more than 10 operations that followed. SAP implemented a co-CEO structure, not for the first time, in 2010, tapping McDermott and then head of product development, Jim Hagemann Snabe, to replace Léo Apotheker, who went on to become CEO of HP. In 2014, Snabe stepped down, leaving McDermott to be the company’s sole chief.

Under McDermott, SAP made significant acquisitions to push the company into new markets, mostly focused on the cloud. Perhaps his biggest move was to acquire software developer Qualtrics for $8 billion a year ago. Qualtrics which competes with SurveyMonkey in helping companies measure sentiment through surveys, was in the process of going public when SAP announced the deal.

During his tenure, SAP bought expense management software provider Concur for $8.3 billion, HR software company SuccessFactors for $3.4 billion and Callidus, a developer of sales performance management tools, for $2.4 billion.

Among the many personal topics he covered in his memoir was his experience with cancer, which took his mom’s life in 2010, the year he became CEO of SAP. Years earlier, his wife, Julie, had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

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Alibaba Group thwarts 300 million hack attempts per day

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Alibaba’s company logo at its office in Hong Kong on February 22, 2012.

Aaron Tam/Stringer | Getty Images

Chinese technology giant Alibaba Group is the target of some 300 million attempted cyber attacks per day, according to the company’s founder and former executive chairman, Jack Ma.

Ma said he was “proud” that despite the tirade of subterfuge, Alipay — the group’s payments arm which reports close to 1 billion users and processes $50 billion worth of transactions per day — has yet to lose “one cent” to hackers.

“For Alibaba Group, we have over 300 million hacking attempts per day. Every day. But we deal (with) it. We don’t have even one problem,” Ma said at the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Singapore on Tuesday.

By way of contrast, embattled Chinese technology giant Huawei is subject to around 1 million daily cyberattacks, according to its security chief. Until now, other technology companies have been less forthcoming in revealing their cyber attack vulnerabilities.

Give my data to a machine. I trust a machine more than (I) trust people.

Jack Ma

Alibaba founder and former executive chairman

Alibaba faced a sweeping cyber attack attempt in February, which threatened to compromise the accounts of 20 million users on its Taobao e-commerce site. The company said it detected the attack “in the first instance.”

Ma cited the company’s advanced tech capabilities, which he dubbed “AI: Alibaba Intelligence,” for its continued success rate, noting that machines are superior to humans in using logic to thwart malicious online behavior.

“We teach the machine all the ways people (are) cheating,” said Ma. “The machine remembers over millions of ways of cheating, so when we start the cheating, (the) machine already knows you are cheating. In this way we are protecting all the technology.”

Jack Ma (right), co-founder and former executive chair of Alibaba Group, speaks next to Steve Forbes (left), chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes media, during the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Singapore on October 15, 2019.

Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images

To achieve that degree of accuracy, however, Ma noted the company must collect vast swathes of customer data. He argued that doing so allowed Alibaba to develop safeguards to detect bad human actors.

“Give my data to a machine,” said Ma. “I trust a machine more than (I) trust people.”

“I give my data to people, I worry about that. People say ‘ah, this is Jack Ma, I want to know about him.’ Machine(s) don’t care if you’re Jack Ma or Jack Lee. Machine cares whether you do good things or bad things.”

Ma retired from Alibaba last month, 20 years after the company’s founding. At the conference in Singapore, he was honored with the Malcolm S Forbes Lifetime Achievement Award for his “outstanding” contributions to entrepreneurship.

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Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam annual policy address interrupted

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Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam leaves her annual policy address due to disruptions by pro-democracy lawmakers in the Legislative Council on October 16, 2019.

Anthony Wallace | AFP | Getty Images

Pro-democracy lawmakers shouted at Hong Kong embattled leader Carrie Lam on the floor of the legislature as she was set to deliver her annual speech on Wednesday.

Lam’s remarks were initially suspended amid disruption. As she was set to begin her address a second time, pro-democracy lawmakers interrupted her and some even threw objects at her. 

The proceedings were adjourned as the six democratic lawmakers were escorted out of the room. Lam also left the legislature’s chambers.

Lam was set to formally withdraw the extradition bill that sparked nearly five months of sometimes violent protests in the city.

She was expected to also focus on land and housing initiatives in a bid to restore confidence in the city’s future after months of anti-government protests that have crippled the city and dampened investor sentiment in the Asian financial hub.

Pro-democracy lawmakers wearing masks with the image of Chinese President Xi Jinping disrupt proceedings during the annual policy address of Carrie Lam on October 16, 2019.

Anthony Wallace | AFP | Getty Images

The semi-autonomous city battles to overcome its greatest political turmoil since 1997, when the former British colony was handed over to China. Hong Kong now operates under the “one country, two systems” principle, in which Beijing grants Hong Kong citizens financial and legal independence from the mainland.

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US charges Turkish bank tied to Giuliani client with evading sanctions

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People walk past a branch of Turkish bank HalkBank in Istanbul, Turkey.

Chris McGrath | Getty Images

Federal prosecutors in New York announced charges on Tuesday against a Turkish bank with ties to a gold trader connected to Rudy Giuliani, accusing the financial institution of a multi-billion dollar scheme to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran.

The six-count indictment for fraud, money laundering and sanctions offenses comes a year after a former executive at the bank, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, was sentenced to prison for working with international gold trader Reza Zarrab, whom Giuliani has represented, to hide transactions involving Iran.

“As alleged in today’s indictment, Halkbank’s systemic participation in the illicit movement of billions of dollars’ worth of Iranian oil revenue was designed and executed by senior bank officials,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement.

“The bank’s audacious conduct was supported and protected by high-ranking Turkish government officials, some of whom received millions of dollars in bribes to promote and protect the scheme,” he said.

Giuliani’s involvement with Zarrab has recently been in the news. The former New York mayor, along with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had pressed President Donald Trump to drop a case against Zarrab after he was detained during a trip to the U.S. in 2016, Bloomberg reported last week.

Zarrab ultimately pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the case against Atilla.

Bloomberg also reported that, in 2017, Trump asked then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to get the Justice Department to drop Zarrab’s case. Tillerson refused, according to the outlet.

Giuliani’s attempts to influence American foreign policy have come under scrutiny in recent weeks also in connection to Ukraine.

In the whistleblower complaint that spurred Democrats’ impeachment efforts, Giuliani was accused of being a “central figure” in Trump’s July 25 request that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky “look into” unsubstantiated corruption allegations against former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

A representative for Giuliani didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Markets blow off US sanctions

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