Google's Eric Schmidt Stepping Down As CEO, Larry Page Taking Over

The times, they are a-changin'! It's not exactly normal to see two high-profile companies announce market-shaking news about their primary leaders in the same week, but 2011 is definitely shaping up to be an unusual year. Just a few days after Apple's Steve Jobs decided to take a medical leave of absence, Google has announced that Eric Schmidt will be stepping down as CEO of the search giant. That's right, Google's getting a new CEO.

It's a bombshell of an announcement, but it doesn't have the scandalous underpinnings that HP's CEO change had last year. Instead, Eric will remain on Google's staff as Executive Chairman, while co-founder Larry Page steps up to the CEO role. In really just seems like Eric wanted a change; there doesn't look to be any sort of major reason why of all of this is taking place, with Google simply stating that these management changes will "streamline decision making and create clearer lines of responsibility and accountability at the top of the company."

Starting on April 4, 2011, Page will be in charge of Google's day-to-day operations as Chief Executive Officer, while Sergey Brin, Google Co-Founder, will devote his energy to strategic projects, in particular working on new products. Eric Schmidt will assume the role of Executive Chairman, focusing externally on deals, partnerships, customers and broader business relationships, government outreach and technology thought leadership--all of which are increasingly important given Google's global reach. Internally, he will continue to act as an advisor to Larry and Sergey.

Here's what Eric had to say about the changes: "We've been talking about how best to simplify our management structure and speed up decision making for a long time. By clarifying our individual roles we'll create clearer responsibility and accountability at the top of the company. In my clear opinion, Larry is ready to lead and I'm excited about working with both him and Sergey for a long time to come." As for Larry's take? Here it is: "Eric has clearly done an outstanding job leading Google for the last decade. The results speak for themselves. There is no other CEO in the world that could have kept such headstrong founders so deeply involved and still run the business so brilliantly. Eric is a tremendous leader and I have learned innumerable lessons from him. His advice and efforts will be invaluable to me as I start in this new role. Google still has such incredible opportunity--we are only at the beginning and I can't wait to get started."

Of course, all of this news comes as Google announced their most recent earnings report, with Q4 2010 operating income listed at $2.98 billion, or 35% of revenues. It's pretty clear that Google isn't hurting for cash, and they certainly didn't make a CEO switch in order to turn the company around. We suspect things will continue as usual from a consumer perspective, but who knows what changes the new CEO may have up his sleeve. Like we said, 2011 is poised to pack some pretty great surprises.
Tags:  Google, Search, CEO