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Originally published January 20, 2011 at 7:49 PM | Page modified January 21, 2011 at 1:28 PM

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Google's Page returns as CEO in surprise executive shake-up

Facing new threats to its role as the world's dominant Internet company, Google announced a surprise executive shake-up that appears to...

Los Angeles Times

Erich Schmidt bio

Age: 55

Education: Bachelor's degree from Princeton University, master's degree and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley

Professional experience: Leaving his position as Google Inc. CEO - which he held since 2001 - in April to become executive chairman of its board. Before Google, he was CEO of Novell and, prior to that, chief technology officer at Sun Microsystems Inc.

New role: As executive chairman, Schmidt will serve as adviser and handle broader tasks such as business deals and relationships and government outreach, as Google faces growing regulatory scrutiny in the U.S. and Europe.

Net worth: $5.45 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

SAN FRANCISCO — Facing new threats to its role as the world's dominant Internet company, Google announced a surprise executive shake-up that appears to put innovation and technology — not management — in the driver's seat.

Larry Page, Google's 37-year-old co-founder, will reclaim the top job from Eric Schmidt, the boardroom veteran who brought corporate discipline to the fledgling Web startup a decade ago, helping it become the world's most popular search engine.

But even though it has matured into a powerful company with a rich stock price and enviable profits, Google is facing increasing competition from younger upstarts such as Facebook, the social-networking phenomenon that is vying with Google for Internet-advertising revenue.

To get back its mojo, Google may be returning to its startup roots.

"A lot of the growth of the company used to be driven by innovation," said Yun Kim, an analyst at investment firm Gleacher & Co. "Having someone with the very strong products background that Larry has could bring some innovation back to Google."

Schmidt, 55, will remain as executive chairman and will advise Page and Sergey Brin, Google's other co-founder. Brin will give up his title as co-president to work on high-priority projects.

One of those projects is believed to be social-networking tools to counter the growing popularity of Facebook, which has supplanted Google as Internet's most talked about and closely watched company.

While Google is showing great promise with its Android operating system that will power a new generation of smartphones and tablet computers, it has yet to come up with a satisfactory counterpunch to the growing competitive threat of Facebook.

The surprise shake-up, which will take effect April 4, was announced Thursday after the close of regular trading on Wall Street.

Schmidt took over as chief executive from Page, then 28, in July 2001.

A seasoned Silicon Valley veteran who had served as CEO of Novell and chief technology officer of Sun Microsystems, Schmidt was brought in to provide some "adult supervision."

On his Twitter account on Thursday, Schmidt wrote: "Day-to-day adult supervision is no longer needed."

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"I believe Larry is ready" to take over as CEO, Schmidt said during a call with analysts. "It's time for him to have a shot at running this."

But many in Silicon Valley were stunned that Page had decided to retake the reins, having given no public hints of his personal ambitions.

"It was a big surprise," said Danny Sullivan, editor of the blog SearchEngineLand, who has tracked Google since it was founded. "I'd seen no indications that this was something he wanted."

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