Google Shakeup: Larry Page Back As CEO

Google co-founder Larry Page is taking over as CEO in an unexpected shake-up that upstaged the Internet search leader's fourth-quarter earnings. Page reclaims the top job from Eric Schmidt, who had been brought in as CEO a decade ago.

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Google is changing leaders. The company announced yesterday that its CEO Eric Schmidt is stepping down and handing the reins to one of the companies co-founders Larry Page.

NPR's Laura Sydell reports.

LAURA SYDELL: When Eric Schmidt took the job as Google CEO he was brought in to be the grown up - to counter the inexperience of its then 20-something founders - Sergey Brin and Larry Page. But, over the last year Schmidt's response to questions about privacy haven't made him look mature - they've made him look a little scary. He had this to say on CNBC about how the company collects personal information.

Mr. ERIC SCHMIDT (CEO, Google): If you have something that you don't want anyone to know maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.

SYDELL: Schmidt's comments made him the brunt of a few jokes. This popular YouTube video has a cartoon version of the CEO with a bunch of children.

(Soundbite of YouTube video)

(Soundbite of children laughing)

Unidentified Man: Come on kids. Get your ice cream. I already know your favorite flavors. Now hold still while we collect some of your secrets.

SYDELL: Publicly, Schmidt's image wasn't looking good says Danny Sullivan of searchengineland.com, which follows Google.

Mr. DANNY SULLIVAN (searchengineland.com): There've been times that I've looked at this and I've just thought, oh my god, you just probably need to stop talking and you can't do that if you're the CEO.

SYDELL: Schmidt is staying with Google but in a lower profile position as executive chairman. Schmidt has achieved a lot in the decade he's been CEO. When he arrived at Google at the offices there were disheveled engineers and programmers sleeping under desks. He professionalized the company. Google was taking in under $200 million a year in profit, last year it took in $29 billion.

Whit Andrews an analyst with Gartner doesn't think Schmidt is stepping down over a few poorly worded statements.

Mr. WHIT ANDREWS (Vice President and Distinguished Analyst, Gartner Research): Eric's results really do speak for themselves. He is not being replaced because of a few gaffs he may have made.

SYDELL: Yesterday, Google reported a 29 percent surge in profits, beating Wall Street expectations. Andrews thinks Google is worried about the future and new competition.

Mr. ANDREWS: Google clearly feels it must respond to Facebook and other software companies in a way that it feels Page is best capable of addressing.

has grown too much. Schmidt may have professionalized Google but some complain it doesn't have that old creative spark. All decisions were looked over by Schmidt as well as co-founders Page and Brin.

Forrester analyst Nate Eliot.

Mr. NATE ELLIOTT (Principal Analyst, Forrester Research): There's been a lot of talk over the last 10 years about the triumvirate structure they have over there and the fact that all three of them make decisions together and the thinking apparently, is that with just two of them those decisions will happen more quickly.

SYDELL: Putting the 37-year-old co-founder in charge might also give the company a facelift that will help it keep and attract talented employees, says analyst Sullivan.

Mr. SULLIVAN: Perhaps revitalizing that idea that Google is this innovative startup is part of all this I think. Both in terms of helping your investors feel reassured and also your own employees because they've, you know, had a problem where they've lost employees over to Facebook.

SYDELL: In a Tweet today, Schmidt wrote: day to day adult supervision is no longer needed. Larry Page will become CEO on April 4th.

Laura Sydell, NPR News, San Francisco.

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