Schmidt to step aside as Google CEO, Page taking over

The switch will be official in April

Google co-founder Larry Page will take over as Google CEO in April from Eric Schmidt, who will remain with the company as executive chairman.

The change is an attempt to streamline the company's top-level decision making process, the company said on Thursday, when it reported its 2010 fourth quarter earnings.

Google generated US$8.44 billion in revenue in the quarter, ended Dec. 31, 2010, up 26 percent compared with 2009's fourth quarter. Subtracting commissions paid to partners and other fees, revenue came in at $6.37 billion, beating the consensus estimate of $6.06 billion from analysts polled by Thomson Financial.

Net income came in at $2.54 billion, or $7.81 per share, up from $1.97 billion, or $6.13 per share, in the fourth quarter of 2009.

On a pro forma basis, which excludes certain items, net income was $2.85 billion, or $8.75 per share, beating the analyst consensus estimate of $8.09 per share and compared to $2.19 billion, or $6.79 per share, in the fourth quarter of 2009.

In a statement, Schmidt called the fourth quarter "a terrific end to a stellar year" and credited the success on a strong core search advertising business and to the momentum in emerging businesses such as display advertising and mobile.

Page praised Schmidt in the statement, saying he has done an "outstanding job" and calling him a "tremendous leader."

"There is no other CEO in the world that could have kept such headstrong founders so deeply involved and still run the business so brilliantly," Page said in the statement.

Schmidt said this change has been under discussion "for a long time" as the company tries to "simplify" its management structure. "By clarifying our individual roles we'll create clearer responsibility and accountability at the top of the company. In my clear opinion, Larry is ready to lead and I'm excited about working with both him and Sergey for a long time to come," he said in the statement.

Google's other co-founder Sergey Brin will oversee strategic projects, specifically new products.

Schmidt became Google's CEO in 2001, steering the company through its massive financial growth, including its IPO, as well as through a significant expansion of its technology and business focus beyond its core search engine market.

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