In a surprise move, Google chief Eric Schmidt said alongside his company's financial results that he was stepping down from his position. Company co-founder Larry Page will take the top position as of April 4 while fellow founder Sergey Brin will be titled as a Co-Founder. Schmidt will stay on only as Executive Chairman.
The outgoing CEO explained the swap as a problem of over-distributed power at the top that wasn't necessarily providing focus. Unlike most companies, where the CEO almost always has higher authority, Brin, Page and Schmidt had as much control.
"For the last 10 years, we have all been equally involved in making decisions," Schmidt said. "This triumvirate approach has real benefits in terms of shared wisdom, and we will continue to discuss the big decisions among the three of us. But we have also agreed to clarify our individual roles so there's clear responsibility and accountability at the top of the company."
In his new chairman role, Schmidt would focus mostly on deals and partnerships with both private and government groups. He would drive the broader "thought leadership" and advise Brin and Page while they focused more on day-to-day business.
The sudden shift is unusual and didn't have any explanation for the results, which saw its revenue surge 26 percent from year to year to $8.44 billion and a similar jump in profit. The executive shuffle could cast doubt on whether Google would continue on the same track, particularly for its mobile initiatives and Android. Most mobile efforts are managed by VP Andy Rubin, but the shift in oversight could see possible changes to the larger scope of the platform and would change Schmidt's involvement in mobile deals with companies like Apple.