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By Daniel Debolt
Mountain View Voice
With more businesses than ever targeting its customers, Google is aiming to get back some spark from its early days with co-founder Larry Page now taking the helm as CEO.
The company's 10-year CEO, 55-year-old Eric Schmidt of Atherton, will step down and take the job of executive chairman. Co-founder Sergey Brin joins the two to continue to run the company as a "triumvirate," but with Page, 38, as top decision-maker.
The change was interesting to several City Council members in Mountain View, including tech company veteran Laura Macias, who called it a "tried and true recipe for Silicon Valley" to bring in a founder to run the company.
"Look what happens to Apple when they let Steve Jobs come back," said council member Mike Kasperzak. "There's something about the passion the founders, and in particular these founders, have for the organization."
Schmidt was seen by many as the "adult" brought in to run the company 10 years ago when Page, Google's first CEO, was 28 and there were fewer than 200 employees in a small Mountain View office.
But after a decade and perhaps some "CEO charm school" for Page, as Macias put it, "The training wheels are off, these guys are old enough now to run the company," Kasperzak said.
In a blog post announcing the change, Schmidt appears to be saying that the company is looking to be more agile, perhaps seeking that "start-up spark," as some have called it. Schmidt said the change will "speed up decision making" because Google has become more "complicated" to manage as it has grown to 24,000 employees worldwide, with a 20-percent workforce increase in the last year alone.
As an intense battle with Facebook brews, "competition seems to be getting fiercer in their field," said council member Margaret Abe-Koga. "Sometimes you just need to bring in something fresh and new to stay competitive. Ruling by consensus can be effective, but as you grow larger it grows more challenging."
After 10 years of having "equal" decision making power, "we will continue to discuss the big decisions among the three of us," Schmidt wrote. "But we have also agreed to clarify our individual roles so there's clear responsibility and accountability at the top of the company."
Some Google employees are reportedly concerned about the timing of the transition, but one contacted by the Voice, speaking anonymously, said that the move was overblown by news reports calling it a "shakeup" and said it "made sense."
It comes after a tough year for Schmidt as the face of a company that did not seem to be living up to its motto of "do no evil" in what many saw as an assault on net neutrality by both Google and Verizon. Schmidt wrote that he is "enormously proud" of his 10 years and he will continue as an adviser to Page and Brin, on top of "external" business responsibilities for Google.
The announcement also coincided with reports from Google that its revenues were up 26 percent last quarter at $8.4 billion. Google's new ventures, Android phones, Youtube and Chrome, are "on fire," Schmidt wrote.
Also part of the company's new chapter are proposed zoning changes along Shoreline Boulevard to allow as many as 1,500 homes to accommodate Google employees in North Bayshore. To accommodate Google's growth, the city is negotiating a lease with Google for an office building at the corner of Shoreline Boulevard and Charleston Avenue, among numerous other properties Google owns along Shorebird Way that could soon be redeveloped, said the city's economic development director, Ellis Berns.
While the city's largest employer may have a new CEO, that hasn't appeared to create much worry here in Mountain View, "We have other things to worry about," such as finding a new city manager, Macias said. "Google re-org? No problem."