Turn The (Larry) Page?

by Christopher Paul on January 21, 2011

Lots of tech news this week. One of the most recent bits of gossip is Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, is “stepping up” to be Executive Chairman and handing the CEO role over to one of the two founders, Larry Page.

Everyone seems to be focused on why Schmidt decided to vacate the CEO title. Ken Auletta published well written blog entry for The New Yorker giving his thoughts. Given his book on Google, he’s pretty close to the three men in the spotlight and is probably the most accurate of anyone. But from the article, both John Gruber (great permalink, by the way) and Jason Kottke seem to be focusing on who’s decision it was, forced or voluntary, or why the decision was made. Nowhere do they talk about, what I feel, is the most pressing question: Is Larry Page fit to be CEO? I’m not convinced.

Auletta writes of Page:

He is a very private man, who often in meetings looks down at his hand-held Android device, who is not a comfortable public speaker, who hates to have a regimented schedule, who thinks it is an inefficient use of his time to invest too much of it in meetings with journalists or analysts or governments. As C.E.O., the private man will have to become more public. And he will have to rid himself of a proclivity most engineers have: they are really bad at things they can’t measure. Like fears about Google’s size, and privacy and copyright and how to deal with governments that are weak at measurement but rife with paranoia.

That’s not CEO material. At the same time, Auletta feels Schmidt is confident and comfortable. Plus, let’s face it, he has the experience at running one of the largest public – and ubiquitous – companies in the world.

Page might have what it takes but if those characteristics are true, I think he’s in for a shock when he takes investor calls or when he needs to play politics with different governments. Likewise, I think investors and the public in general will be shocked at how Page handles things. I worry that he won’t be up to par and Google will lose even more of its way. That said, there is a lot of good that can come from the change. The key factor is if Larry Page can be a leader and not just a “genius” as Eric Schmidt calls him.

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