Eric Schmidt is stepping down as CEO of Google.
In a surprising turn of events, Schmidt will relinquish his responsibilities to co-founder Larry Page starting on Apr. 4 after nearly a decade in the role.
When Schmidt was hired back in 2001, the thinking in tech circles was the Google’s brilliant founders Page and Sergey Brin needed a business-savvy executive to help bring the company to the next level. But as Schmidt put it in a Twitter posting on Thursday (Jan. 20) “day-to-day adult supervision no longer needed!”
Instead, Schmidt will take on the role of Google’s executive chairman, where he says he will focus on broader business partnerships, technology leadership, product development and government outreach.
The decision to step down, according to Google executives, is about streamlining management. “As Google has grown, managing the business has become more complicated,” wrote Schmidt in a blog post on Thursday. “So Larry, Sergey and I have been talking for a long time about how best to simplify our management structure and speed up decision making, and over the holidays we decided now was the right moment to make some changes to the way we are structured.”
Schmidt’s tenure at Google has been nothing short of extraordinary. According to comScore, Google’s sites reached nearly 179 million unique users in November, ranking second only behind Yahoo's. Google accounts for 66 percent of all U.S. searches—and essentially has become a verb in the English language meaning “to search the Web.”
Even more impressive is Google’s otherworldly revenue growth over the past decade under Schmidt. The company single-handedly led the online ad industry from the brink following the dotcom crash—and search advertising continues to account for close to 50 percent of the market to this day. Most recently, Google brought in $8.44 billion during the fourth quarter of 2010, a surge of 26 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2009.
If there were any missteps under Schmidt—they might have been the company’s repeated struggles to diversify beyond search. The company and Schmidt have angered broadcast networks with their recent approach to the TV business. And Google has abandoned attempts to break into radio and print.
Yet Schmidt and Google have enjoyed massive, breakthrough success in mobile with the launch of the company’s Android software—which created a worthy challenger to Apple’s iPhone.