Google Plays Game of Musical CEOs

Neglecting the standard mysterious departure-accompanying explanation “I’d like to spend more time with my family,” Google CEO Eric Schmidt announced he’s stepping aside to make way for Google co-founder Larry Page, who will take over April 4.

Page and Sergey Brin started the company in the late 1990s when the duo were grad students at Stanford. Schmidt was installed as CEO in 2001.

Schmidt, who will become the lowly executive chairman, writes on the Official Google Blog:

So Larry, Sergey and I have been talking for a long time about how best to simplify our management structure and speed up decision making–and over the holidays we decided now was the right moment to make some changes to the way we are structured.

What obviously happened here is that the three played a game of rock paper scissors, and Schmidt was the only one who chose rock, forgetting that Stanford dudes are partial to paper.

Or maybe it was something else. What’s your guess as to why Google changed top dogs?

An update from the chairman [Official Google Blog]


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  1. jason in boston says:

    My take: Eric got bored / burned out and wanted to spend some of his billions. Larry said: “Let me have at it and give this CEO thing a shot. I only have to report to the board, right?”.

    It might be as simple as that.

  2. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I think maybe the founders wanted to take a more hands on approach for the foreseeable future. I think there are a lot of ventures that need a lot more direction and improvement, and there might have been a feeling that there were “too many cooks in the kitchen,” as it were.

    • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

      It could just be that the co-founders Larry and Sergey knew, back when Google was getting big, that neither of them had the experience to be the CEO, so they brought in Eric … and now that they’re all growned up and prepared for the work and responsibility, Larry stepped up.

      But hey, it sounds to me like a sort of friendly demotion. Google has always seemed like a friendly, open sort of company, and I’m glad it’s staying in the hands of the people who built it from a little search engine that could.

  3. MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

    Most articles seem to be casting this as a slight to Schmidt, but 1) Google’s growth from 2001-2011 was under his watch, and that was a pretty successful period for them, and 2) chairman of the board isn’t merely an honorific for people you want to get out of the management chain.

    I don’t pretend to know what it does mean, but I’m skeptical of all the “he’s being demoted, they must hate him, oh noes!” commentary I’ve seen.

  4. MutantMonkey says:

    My guess is Schmidt may have lobbied for things like the Nexus One, certain Android features and or Google Wave which all failed when compared to Google’s normal record. Because of this is slowed the company in certain areas and potentially stalled in others.

    Now they are trying to mix things up a bit and hopefully get back to the Google it was 3 years ago.

  5. Rachacha says:

    Larry reall wanted the CAPS LOCK BACK ON THE GOOGLE LAPTOP!

  6. UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

    There seems to have been a power play here. Schmidt was apparently not in line with Page and Brin when it came to leaving China. It seems, at least to me, that Schmidt was increasingly sidelined by the founders as his views were increasingly out of step with theirs on a number of major philosophical issues.

    While Schmidt was key in growing the company, I suspect that Brin and Page were rather stung by the “Google is as bad as other companies” accusations being made recently, and Schmidt, with his less idealistic take on things, was too out of line with the founders to be CEO anymore.

    I also suspect that the tri-leader system was too clunky, and was leading to problems with speed– I’ve read and heard that many mid- to high-mid-level people were frustrated lately. Some even left. These things tend to lead to shakeups of some sort.