Google’s Eric Schmidt: “We Took the Position That the World is Better Off With An Independent Yahoo!”

Dan Cox, on special assignment for FishbowlLA, covering the 2008 Sun Valley Media Conference.

Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and CEO Eric Schmidt stunned the hardened journalist crowd at the Sun Valley Media Conference with an unscheduled 75-minute press conference at which they discussed everything — Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! — and their brethren.

A news conference is unusual for the Sun Valley confab because they don’t often cater to journalists and especially not through lengthy pressers.

So what started as a short sit-down with Schmidt turned into a fascinating ride into the minds of the Google executives. And it may be the only time this week, the journos will be faced with deadlines and a hefty pile of interview info to sift through.

The Google trio were relaxed and somewhat light-hearted about the discussion, but they’re ultra-serious about how they handle business.

CEO Schmidt led the discussion, fielding questions about the thorny corporate situation with Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google. In short, Microsoft is considering a buy-out of Yahoo! But price is a problem and exterior elements like investor Carl Icahn and the Yahoo! board are involved and are at odds over how this will play out.

Google is involved because it recently cut an advertising deal with Yahoo!, which has yet to pass regulatory muster with federal agencies.
Schmidt and the founders also discussed inroads the company is making with the Google phone, the Chinese markets and even Google’s in-house educational programs and salaries and the potential of teachers.

“Microsoft has a long history of having deals that look quite good and end up looking not so good when you look at the fine print,” Schmidt said of Microsoft’s dealings of Yahoo!

“We took the position that the world is better off with an independent Yahoo!”

Currently, Yahoo!’s CEO Jerry Yang and President Sue Decker have been trying to structure a deal with Microsoft, but everything has been in limbo as Yahoo! investors like Icahn have stirred the waters with demands for board control.

Google stepped in to create a deal for advertising, not necessarily a search engine, which had been conjectured.

Co-founder Brin breathlessly joined Page and Schmidt about half an hour into the interview. Brin had been riding a bicycle and claimed he had a flat.

One of the journos asked if it was sabotage.

And the ever-eloquent Brin grinned, “Maybe.”