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Musical CEOs: Now Phillips ends up at ‘the other’ ERP player

Former Oracle man Phillips has taken the reins at Infor. Gary Flood looks at this latest twist in the management merry-go-round


Anyone with small children will be familiar with their demands for salaries 400 to 500 times that of their average employees, Golden fixtures both in the exec washroom and in contract terms… I’m sorry, we’ll start that again: anyone with small children will know all about musical chairs, or as it seems to be now, musical quick sit-downs at parties (must be a health and safety thing).

Thus we must view the news that weeks after his departure from Oracle, Charles (Chuck) Phillips has ended up as the CEO of, er, ‘the other’ enterprise apps firm apart from SAP and Oracle, Infor.

Philips can now talk on equal terms again, as it were, with, well, his old boss Larry Ellison who competes with him at ‘Orrible and his old rival Leo Apotheker who he used to knock up against when the latter ran SAP, though now, of course, he’s over at HP.

Chuck’s arrival is no surprise at all we’re told to incumbent CEO Jim Schaper, who will reportedly stay on as Chairman of the Southern US state of Georgia-based firm, which specialises in selling business software to mid range companies and which is made up of some 30 plus iSeries/midrange customer acquisitions, including the old SSA, Baan, MAPICS and System21.

And we’re told it’s brought nothing but a blush of pride to Ellison himself, with Phillips gushing to a US news outlet, "I have spoken to Larry [and] he is quite proud to produce another CEO in the [software] industry."

Pass the sick bag, etc. But Phillips is a very smart bunny, ex Wall St, knows the market and wouldn’t have made a daft choice (even one as understandable, if he is aggrieved by leaving ‘Orrible, of taking on Lazza at his own game).

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Plus, Infor is no dud – despite carps that it’s an aggregator more than an innovator it’s managed to build to a (claimed) $2bn plus in sales, something Schaper has pointed out took Microsoft and Oracle more like 17. It turns out Phillips went to secondary school in Infor’s home town and his arrival seems set to bring a bit more public attention to the company, a privately held player that may now become a bit more of a credible candidate for going public.

When CBR spoke to Infor in May 2009, Schaper made a point of saying, "We’re in a very unique position of being private but having cash and the equity of our sponsors. But we also need our back office to be ready for an IPO… We will certainly attempt to file again when [the market] is available, when there is an appropriate window ".

Or of course, being swallowed up by either SAP or Oracle, as they seem determined to carve the market up between them. And that’s a perfectly good exit strategy, doubtless on the agendas of Infor owner Golden Gate Capital and Summit Partners, as much as an IPO.

The next step will be seeing if Phillips can articulate a growth and differentiation strategy that makes a difference here – or whether Infor will just continue to toddle along as the Rest Home for all the enterprise software companies that were sort of useful, but not that much.

Meanwhile, what next in the IT version of Musical Sit-down? Maybe the hardware boys should join in? How about Intel and AMD swapping heads, say?


Image courtesy of subcircle on Flickr.

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