Yesterday’s news that Eric Schmidt, who had been Google‘s CEO since 2001, was stepping down from his post to become the company’s executive chairman shocked tech watchers and led to some interesting analysis of what a Larry Page-helmed Google would mean for the company, but there was little in the way of a ‘why’ in Schmidt’s blog post/press release apart from Google’s need to “simplify our management structure and speed up decision making.”
But Ken Auletta, who literally wrote the book on Google, reports for The New Yorker that Schmidt’s decision to step down was not quite as rosy as that, and that “an advisor” says that Schmidt plans on leaving Google after one year as executive chairman. “Was Eric Schmidt pushed or did he jump? Both,” Auletta asks and answers in an instantly memorable opening. Per his report, Schmidt’s shove and springboard came from one and the same place: China.
the Google C.E.O. was upset a year ago when co-founder Larry Page sided with his founding partner, Sergey Brin, to withdraw censored searches from China. Schmidt did not hide his belief that Google should stay in the world’s largest consumer marketplace.
Schmidt, according to associates, lost some energy and focus after losing the China decision. At the same time, Google was becoming defensive. All of their social-network efforts had faltered. Facebook had replaced them as the hot tech company, the place vital engineers wanted to work. Complaints about Google bureaucracy intensified. Governments around the world were lobbing grenades at Google over privacy, copyright, and size issues. The “don’t be evil” brand was getting tarnished, and the founders were restive. Schmidt started to think of departing. Nudged by a board-member friend and an outside advisor that he had to re-energize himself, he decided after Labor Day that he could reboot.
He couldn’t. By the end of the year, he was ready to jump on his own.
This timeline jibes with reports that Schmidt’s departure has been rumored since last summer, and, per the Wall Street Journal, that “aspects of the personal relationship between Messrs. Page and Schmidt had also grown rockier over the past year.”
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