Silicon Valley's most successful 1-trick pony, Internet advertising firm Google, has a new CEO. If his track record is any guide, Larry Page has just doomed Google to a slow and painful death.
What about Larry? Let's stipulate that Larry Page is very smart, rich and means well. He has interesting ideas and has been taking a post-graduate seminar in managing a multi-billion dollar business for the last 10 years.
So he's qualified to be CEO, right?
Unflattering portrait Maybe not. The Wall Street Journal article Chief Seeks More Agile Google paints an unflattering portrait of Mr. Page's executive chops:
Poor communication skills:
The 38-year-old Google co-founder didn't immediately address employees in an all-hands note or meeting. . . .
Weak on strategy:
He didn't discuss his strategy for running the company on Thursday's conference call. . . .
Finds corporate details boring:
Former Google employees and executives who worked with Mr. Page or attended executive management meetings said he sometimes appeared uninterested in the sessions. . . . He also showed little care for matters like budgets and policy.
Uninformed on production software practices:
Mr. Page's desire to move quickly on ambitious ideas was stifled by company bureaucracy. . . . He often told mid-level engineers to instantly roll out changes to the search engine, but the process would often take several weeks as those engineers worked with their immediate supervisors. . . .
Inability to execute:
Another pet project in recent years was a service called "G Drive" . . . . But "it wasn't prioritized as he would have liked," said a person familiar with the matter.
Gdrive is a interesting for a couple of reasons. Googlers had the idea some 5 years ago and it still isn't running. And Microsoft, hardly the fleetest player, is now offering 25 GB of free storage on Windows Live SkyDrive.
The Storage Bits take Sure, Microsoft is taking a bath on SkyDrive. Call it "market research."
But for a Google co-founder, executive and major stockholder to fail at getting Gdrive "prioritized" suggests that Mr. Page has some major leadership deficits. This is the new CEO?
But wait, you ask: didn't Steve Jobs suffer from some of these problems too? Yes, he did and does. But after being dumped from Apple he started a new company where he learned hard lessons from failure. So when his 2nd act started he had many new strategies.
Mr. Page hasn't had that bracing experience of failure. Unless you count Gdrive.
The good news is that it takes years for multi-billion companies to fail - well, except Enron and Wang Labs - so Mr. Page can indulge his CEO fantasy for a few years without much risk of becoming a millionaire again.
But for stockholders who hope to see Google profitably build new businesses and further grow its substantial market cap, Mr. Page's new job is unwelcome news. I like Google and hope to see them succeed, but I'm not hopeful.
Comments welcome, of course. Honestly, I hope I'm wrong about Mr. Page.
Update: In reaction to comments like mine, Schmidt offered a weak defense:
A week after announcing a management shakeup at Google, outgoing Chief Executive Eric Schmidt defended the credentials of company co-founder Larry Page. . . .
“When people criticize Larry as the new CEO, that’s grossly unfair to Larry,” he said on Thursday at a small press conference in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum. “He has been with me at every business decision for 10 years.”
From Schmidt defends incoming CEO Page in the Wall Street Journal. End update.