Eric Schmidt to Step Down as Google CEO

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Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO and Chairman of the Board, posted today that he plans to step down from his role as CEO of the popular search engine giant effective April 4th. Larry Page, a Google Co-Founder and current President of Products at the company, will take his place.

Google CEO Chairman Eric SchmidtLarry Page served as CEO of the company from its beginnings until April of 2001, when Schmidt first came on board. Meanwhile, Schmidt, whose ten-year tenure at the company isn’t yet over, plans to stay on as Executive Chairman.  

From his posting on the matter:

“For the last 10 years, we have all been equally involved in making decisions. This triumvirate approach has real benefits in terms of shared wisdom, and we will continue to discuss the big decisions among the three of us. But we have also agreed to clarify our individual roles so there’s clear responsibility and accountability at the top of the company.”

Schmidt says that his role will be primarily to act as a go-between for Google and third parties such as business partners and governments; it’s a curious but important choice as Google’s growth forces it to deal increasingly with both competitors and government regulators.

Continung to act as an advisor to the co-founders will be his chief internal duty.

In regaining his CEO status, Page will take charge of product development and strategy, while Sergey Brin, the third of Google’s top three, will move into more of a strategic planning role.  His current title of President, Technology will be dropped entirely in favor of a simpler “Co-Founder.” His new duties will be the least specific of the three, centered primarily upon developing new Google projects.

While CEOs often step down due to poor performance of the company, that’s obviously not what set these forces in play; while a few software missteps come to mind (Wave, Knol), Google has largely seen nothing but success in recent years. Publicly, the Mountain View-based company has announced that the move is an effort to “streamline decision making and create clearer lines of responsibility” at Google.  

Given the tech giant’s rock star status among tech enthusiasts (and, to a lesser extent, among the general public), the move makes sense – instead of a confusing three-way power split, lines of authority and responsibility are much more visible.

The news comes hot on the heels of Google’s earnings results: the company earned $8.44B in the fourth quarter of 2010, an increase of 26% compared to the same period in 2009. Among the interesting tidbits revealed during the earnings call was the fact that while Google-owned properties generated $5.67B for the company, a whopping $2.50B (or 30% of revenue) was generated from third-party sites via AdSense dollars.

Additionally, the company noted that it now employs more than 24,000 employees worldwide.

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