Ken Auletta, author of the book Googled: The End of the World As We Know It, has written an interesting piece for The New Yorker, claiming to know more about why Eric Schmidt has relinquished his CEO role to Google co-founder Larry Page (effective April 4).
Auletta, who claims to have conducted 11 interviews with Schmidt for the book, writes:
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.
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.
Stepping up as Exec Chairman. New to-do’s: London-Monday. Munich-Tues. Zurich-Wed. Davos-Thurs….
According to Auletta, an advisor said that Schmidt was considering staying around for a year as Executive Chairman and then moving onto something else. This is interesting considering that Sergey Brin said yesterday that he was looking forward to working with Schmidt (and Page) for decades.
Schmidt has indicated that he will be much more involved in the external dealings of the company as opposed to the internal dealings (day-to-day operations). We'll see how long this actually lasts. I guess it won't come as a complete surprise, should Schmidt end up leaving the company at some point, but for now, it seems he's still got a job to do (see above tweet for starters).
It's important to keep rumors in perspective, and consider that Google has made no indication whatsoever that Schmidt is going anywhere.