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Friday, January 28, 2011

Schmidt Defends Incoming Google CEO

The Wall Street Journal
By Amir Efrati
January 27th, 2011

A week after announcing a management shakeup at Google, outgoing Chief Executive Eric Schmidt defended the credentials of company co-founder Larry Page, who will take the reins at the Internet giant in April.

“When people criticize Larry as the new CEO, that’s grossly unfair to Larry,” he said on Thursday at a small press conference in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum. “He has been with me at every business decision for 10 years.”

Though he stayed largely behind the scenes while Mr. Schmidt was the public face of Google, Mr. Page has long called the shots on product initiatives. He also showed little care for matters like budgets and policy, functions that Mr. Schmidt gravitated toward, people familiar with the company have said.

Messrs. Schmidt, Page and fellow co-founder Sergey Brin said last week that some top-level decision-making had gotten slower and the management change would improve that.

Some press reports speculated that the management change was due to increasing pressure from rising competitors such as Facebook, the social network, and that Mr. Page was being elevated to combat such headwinds. Another report said debate last year about whether to stop self-censoring results for Google’s Chinese search engine had created tension between the men.

But at Davos, Mr. Schmidt dismissed such notions as false. He stressed that the change “had nothing to do with competitors” and has been “misinterpreted, I think, by many people.”

He added: “All of the predicates for why the reorganization happened have not been correct,” he added. “The correct reason is we sat down and said: ‘This is a company that needs to be run even more tightly.’”

Mr. Schmidt, who will become executive chairman of the company and focus on governmental and press relations, acquisitions and partnerships, also implied he would stay at Google for another 10 years.

Last fall Mr. Schmidt told a group of journalists that when he joined Google in 2001 he committed to staying for 20 years. But after Google announced the executive changes during last week’s quarterly earnings call and later gave Mr. Schmidt a $100 million equity award from the company, some management experts and other Silicon Valley figures speculated that he might not stay that long.

The 55-year-old Mr. Schmidt said at Davos that not only is he “very committed to Google” but that Mr. Page, 38, and Mr. Brin, 37, insisted he stay involved in certain company affairs that he was planning to leave to them.