Google co-founder Page will be CEO in shake-up

Google co-founder Larry Page is taking over as CEO of the Internet search leader in April.

January 20, 2011 6:24:56 PM PST
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.

It will be the same people, but they'll be taking on different duties at Google. Eric Schmidt gets a new title -- executive chairman, which in some organizations might be a face-saving position for someone being pushed aside. But it doesn't appear to be the case here.

Google is flying high financially, as it reported its fourth quarter results on Thursday. Revenue was up 26 percent compared to a year ago. So why change CEOs?

"I believe Larry is ready. He's been working on this area for a long time. His ideas are very interesting, and it's time for him to have a shot at running this, and I'm sure he'll do a fantastic job," Schmidt said during the earnings conference call.

Analysts are reluctant to say the 55-year-old has done anything wrong. He has worked with the co-founders to make Google the dominant search engine and a giant advertising platform. He brought YouTube into the fold, but Google hasn't made a dent in social networking against Facebook. It has also stumbled trying to be a content distributor on TV. Analysts speculate that will be his focus in his new job as executive chairman.

"Maybe Google needs added role in Washington, DC. Maybe Google has to play the next 10 years very differently, and clearly it is also in terms of Larry Page's readiness to be a CEO," Caris & Co. Senior Internet Analyst Sandeep Aggarwal said.

Page was enthusiastic about embracing his new CEO duties.

"I cannot be more excited about moving us forward, and we're really only at the beginning. I just can't wait to get us started," the 37-year-old said during the earnings call.

Since Google will retain the same executives at the top, but with different titles and duties, the change isn't expected to be disruptive. But now as CEO, Page will have to be more public -- becoming the public face of a company instead of a behind-the-scenes creator of Google products.

"It's trying to break into other areas like social networking, so this could help. This is definitely what they intend to be a shot in the arm. The question is, really whether Larry is going to be able to move the company into a new and, I guess, a more dynamic direction," New York Times Dealbook reporter Michael de la Merced said.

The change in titles and responsibilities will occur in April. Schmidt once said part of his job was supervision for Page and co-founder Sergey Brin, but he tweeted on Thursday, day-to-day adult supervision is no longer needed.