Born: Jan. 21, 1944, Berlin, Germany
Education: Degree in communications engineering from Karlsruhe University, 1968
Career: Joined IBM in Germany as a consultant in 1968. Left in 1972 to form SAP (SAP ). Today, Plattner is co-chairman and co-CEO along with sidekick Henning Kagermann.
Early influences: 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. Plattner, a passionate golfer, 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."
Sailing: For years, he has competed in yacht races. In 1996, after his mast broke just 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.