In a surprise move, Internet giant Google has announced that Larry Page will be taking over as CEO of the company in April. Page’s return as chief executive of the company he co-founded 13 years ago is a sign that the maturing Internet giant is looking to recapture its original feel and edge. The 38-year-old, whose postgraduate research on how Internet pages link to each other laid the foundations for Google in the mid-1990s, is regarded as the impatient, idea-driven force at the heart of the company.
Now, some hope he will jumpstart a company that in recent years has stumbled awkwardly on emerging Web trends such as social networking.
“A return to its roots is just what the company needs to catalyze creativity, get employees energized and start taking over markets again,” said Tricia Salinero at Silicon Valley M&A advisory firm Newforth Partners.
“As spending was curbed over the last few years, some of that Google magic was lost — employees started going to other companies and Google came in second in a lot of markets.”
Google, which Page co-founded with fellow Stanford University PhD student Sergey Brin in 1998, has had its grip on the Internet threatened by upstart social network Facebook and local discount sites such as Groupon, which Google reportedly tried to buy for $6 billion last year.
“Losing Groupon may have been the last straw,” said Salinero. “A company choosing independence over the Google mystique.”
Both Facebook and Groupon are run by founders still in their 20s, which may have caused Google to reconsider the strategy of hiring an outside CEO, as it did with former Novell Inc chief Eric Schmidt in 2001.
Schmidt announced, in a tweet, that Google no longer needs his “day-to-day adult supervision” but the idea that a “grown-up” has to step in may be losing steam — especially given the success of Facebook under Mark Zuckerberg,
“That was just how things were done back then,” said Paul Buchheit, an early Google employee credited with creating its Gmail service. “The conventional wisdom was, if you got two kids who started a company, you go ahead and hire a CEO.”
Founders are back in style at the helm.
“That’s clearly the trend for the future, that’s what most good investors look for now,” said Buchheit. “They want founders who can run the company because that’s proven to be one of the best indicators of success of the company.”
Page is probably the best CEO available, and could have done the job years ago, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at tech research firm Enderle Group.