Was Eric Schmidt Pushed Out at Google?

Eric Schmidt will be replaced as CEO of Google by co-founder Larry Page on April 4, it was announced yesterday. But why? What's the backstory? The New Yorker's Ken Auletta, who recently wrote a book on the search engine giant after conducting dozens of interviews with many members of the company's management team, is on the story:

Was Eric Schmidt pushed or did he jump? Both. According to close advisors, 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. It was an indication of the nature of the relationship Schmidt had with the founders that he--as Brian Cashman of the Yankees did this week--acknowledged that the decision was made above his head. He often joked that he provided "adult supervision," and was never shy about interrupting the founders at meetings to crystallize a point. In the eleven interviews I conducted with him for my book on Google, he freely told anecdotes about the founders, sometimes making gentle fun of them, never seeming to look over his shoulder. Yet he always made clear that they were "geniuses" and he, in effect, was their manager. After a bumpy first couple of years after he joined Google as C.E.O. in 2001, they had developed a remarkable relationship. But also a weird one. How many successful organizations have a troika making decisions? 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.

Read the full story at the New Yorker.

Presented by

Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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