UNIT4 Appoints New CEO, José Duarte

UNIT4, the Netherlands-based ERP company, has announced the appointment of a new chief executive officer (CEO), José Duarte, and plans for the current CEO Chris Ouwinga to move from the corner office to the position of non-executive director and chairman on a new single-tier board governance structure. José Duarte joins UNIT4 after having spent considerable time at SAP, most recently as president of global services and corporate officer from January 2011 to May 2012.

Mr. Duarte joined SAP in 1993, and was country manager of Portugal for a time, before rising to the position of president of SAP Latin America from 2006 to 2008.  Prior to SAP, Jose Duarte has worked with, among other companies, Unilever Group, and Andersen Consulting (now Accenture).

Jose Duarte and Chris Ouwinga will serve as co-CEOs through the end of 2013 to provide continuity and a gradual transition-in for Mr. Duarte.  Accordingly, UNIT4’s management board will add Mr. Duarte to the other current board members: Chris Ouwinga, CFO Edwin van LeeuwenAb van Marion, and Jeremy Roche.

On January 1, 2014, UNIT4 will shift from a 2-tier to a single-tier board. The single-tier board structure is a more common governance structure, except where the 2-tier board structure (supervisory / management) is specifically mandated by law (for example, in Germany.)

At that time, Chris Ouwinga will assume the role of non-executive director and chairman, and Philip Houben, current chairman of the supervisory board, will become the senior independent non-executive director in the single-tier board.  Other members of the supervisory board continuing to sit on the board in their supervisory (non executive) current roles are Rob RuijterFrank Rövekamp, and Nikki Beckett.

It is significant, but not terribly surprising, that UNIT4 has been able to attract a former executive from SAP and someone with Mr. Duarte’s global experience. UNIT4 presents Mr. Duarte with another global platform, and with a vendor that has considerable global opportunity, if not the technological resources and “heft” of SAP.

The UNIT4 press release seems to focus on Mr. Duarte’s global commercial experience and his “entrepreneurial spirit”, while also talking about UNIT4’s “ambitious plans to further grow internationally”. UNIT4 has viewed Latin America as a particular opportunity, and so this undoubtedly played into the selection of Mr. Duarte. It is somewhat less evident how Mr. Duarte’s experience aligns with UNIT4’s aspirations to be known as a global cloud-focused business software and services company. We will be interested to see how Mr. Duarte transitions into this role and what changes he brings to UNIT4.
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