GOOG ends 'adult supervision' as founders turn 38 years old...

Summary:Can Google's founders match the performance of Mark Zuckerberg, just 26? He manages quite well without any 'adult supervision.'

It's taken Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin many years to end their "adult supervision" in the form of Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who leaves in April.

Mr Page will become CEO and Mr Schmidt becomes Executive Chairman.

Mr Schmidt Tweeted:

Day-to-day adult supervision no longer needed! http://goo.gl/zC89p.

Mr Schmidt was brought in as CEO in August of 2001 because of pressure from Kleiner Perkins, one of Google's chief investors. His goal was to provide "adult supervision" to the young founders as Google was preparing for an IPO.

The VCs believed the IPO would be more successful if investors saw that Google was headed by a veteran Silicon Valley executive. The company created a "triumvirate" where the founders and Mr Schmidt shared responsibility for executive decisions.

Many years later, Google still maintained its "adult supervision" which must have rankled the founders, now nearing 38 years old. The situation must have become especially galling in recent months since Mark Zuckerberg, the 26 year old founder of Facebook is also CEO. He has managed to more than triple the value of Facebook in less than a year--without the need for any adult supervision.

One year ago I asked: Nine years later does Google still need 'adult supervision?' | ZDNet

The Google triumvirate has worked reasonably smoothly but there have been large differences of opinion between the founders and Mr Schmidt, especially over China. Mr Brin was in opposition to Google's entry into China and he advocated an end to its China operations, against Mr Schmidt's position that Google should overlook China's human rights record.

Mr Schmidt has served as a useful "lightning rod" at Google. Sometimes Mr Schmidt's less carefully considered remarks have gotten him into trouble but he has consistently distracted the media from paying much attention to the founders.

But his unusual leadership style has attracted a number of critics. For example, Elizabeth Corcoran, senior editor at Forbes, once asked "Who's Really Running Google? - Forbes.com

...as charming as he is, Schmidt runs Google about as much as much as the Dalai Lama runs the world's spiritual life.

...he has defined his job not so much as leading Google but as running interference for it--placating the investment community, soothing nervous regulators and policymakers and doing whatever it takes to create a magical force field protecting Googleteers...

He hasn't had much success at "running interference" with Wall Street and policy makers.

- Google is facing increasing scrutiny from the US administration over possible anti-trust business practices. That’s despite Mr Schmidt’s very public support for President Obama.

- Google has run into big problems internationally with its books scanning project and with European anti-trust authorities.

- Its relationship with Microsoft is very bad, because Google actively opposed Microsoft's acquisition of Yahoo and other deals.

- Mr Schmidt has managed to upset newspaper companies both in the US and internationally. He has failed portray Google as an ally rather than as an adversary.

- Google’s relationship with Apple soured badly, especially after Google introduced its Nexus phone, and then dropped it. Mr Schmidt was forced to resign from Apple’s board.

- Mr Schmidt admitted that he persuaded the Google board to pay $1 billion more than YouTube was worth. Critics said that was to reward VCs who were investors in both Google and YouTube at the cost of GOOG's shareholders. Google is still trying to figure out how make YouTube profitable.

- Google has failed to diversify its business away from search and online advertising despite many acquisitions.

Mr Page will now have to step out of the shadows and assume a much more vocal and public role. That will be a challenge for a shy software engineer who is much happier working on engineering problems than schmoozing Wall Street analysts and building media partnerships with other companies.


Topics: Security, Banking, Enterprise Software, Google, Legal

About

In May 2004, Tom Foremski became the first journalist to leave a major newspaper, the Financial Times, to make a living as a full-time journalist blogger. He writes the popular news blog Silicon Valley Watcher--reporting on the business of Silicon Valley.Tom arrived in San Francisco in 1984, and has covered US technology markets for leadi... Full Bio

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