Google co-founder Larry Page is claiming back the role of chief executive. Is this a simple question of housekeeping, as Eric Schmidt claims, or something more?
Some commentators have been quick to link the move to increased competition from Facebook and others, but the reasons set out by Schmidt seem perfectly plausible.
Schmidt says that as the company has grown, managing the business has become more complicated, requiring Google to simplify its management structure and speed up decision making.
So while many shareholders may be a bit nervous about the prospect of change to what has proven to be a winning formula over the past ten years, Schmidt says he, Page and Google’s other co-founder Sergey Brin will continue to discuss the big decisions.
According to Schmidt, the changes are about clarifying individual roles so there is clear responsibility and accountability at the top of the company.
Page is to lead product development and technology strategy as well as take charge of day-to-day operations, Brin will concentrate on strategic projects, in particular working on new products, and Schmidt will focus on deals, partnerships, customers and broader business relationships, government outreach and technology thought leadership.
Even the most cynical amongst us should find it difficult to fault the logic. If Schmidt is trying to paper over anything, could it be as simple as the fact that Page is 18 years younger?
So for “Larry, in my clear opinion, is ready to lead,” we could perhaps simply read, “Larry is old enough to take on this role as he approaches his 40s and I have had enough and would like a quieter life as I approach 60.”
After all, the reason Page gave up the chief executive role to Schmidt a decade ago was because investors demanded a more experienced business leader.
If investors do not consider Page to be experienced ten successful years later, then they never will. So why should anyone doubt the collective wisdom of Google’s leaders that now is the right moment for change?
As ever, only time will tell whether or not Schmidt’s reasons of “simplifying management structure and speeding up decision making” are akin to Alan Johnson’s “personal reasons” for quitting his job as shadow chancellor, but most right-minded people are likely to be leaning in the direction of not.