Google founder hopes to prove he’s ready to be CEO

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Page has wanted to control his own destiny _ and legacy _ since reading a biography of the inventor Nikola Tesla before he was even in high school. Tesla wasn’t rewarded or widely recognized for his breakthroughs in X-ray, wireless communications and electricity. Page didn’t want that to happen to him as an entrepreneur.

For that reason, Page embraced the chance to be Google’s CEO when the company started in a rented garage not far from the company’s current headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. It also helps explain why he and Brin created a separate class of stock with greater voting power so they and Schmidt could remain in charge after the company went public in 2004. Page’s stake in Google has made him one of the world’s wealthiest people with an estimated fortune of $20 billion.

Although the contours of his personality and background are known quantities, Page remains an enigmatic figure on Wall Street.

To some, he remains best known for uncompromising idealism, reflected in his embrace of his company’s “Don’t Be Evil” motto and his pledge to never cater to investors’ desire for ever-rising quarterly earnings at the expense of long-term investments.

Page already raised concerns by pushing Google into renewable energy and robotic cars. Those who know him say he has discussed even more far-flung projects behind closed doors.

“Sometimes his ideas are just way out there and you’re kind of like, ‘Wow, that came out of left field,’” said Ethan Anderson, a former Google product manager who now runs Redbeacon, a startup that operates a search engine for finding neighborhood businesses.

Uncertainty about whether Page will be as interested as Schmidt in appeasing Wall Street has contributed to a 6 percent drop in Google’s stock price since the CEO change was announced Jan. 20. The technology-driven Nasdaq index has added 3 percent during that time.

BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis doesn’t believe it’s a coincidence that Google revealed it would hire more than 6,200 employees this year _ a 25 percent boost, and the most in its history _ less than a week after it announced Page’s comeback as CEO.

“Don’t be surprised if Google’s spending goes up, even it means its earnings per share might go down,” Gillis said.

Page’s supporters believe Google’s current market value of about $190 billion will climb even higher under his leadership. That would mirror what happened after Jobs finally got his chance to run Apple in 1997 after a decade in exile. Since then, Apple has brought out the iconic iPod, iPhone and iPad devices and created more than $300 billion in shareholder wealth.

But the returns of company founders haven’t always been triumphant. Consider Yahoo Inc. co-founder Jerry Yang’s second stint as CEO from June 2007 to January 2009. Yahoo’s stock fell 56 percent during that period, larger than the 41 percent drop for Nasdaq. Unlike the rest of the Nasdaq, Yahoo shares aren’t close to rebounding to their June 2007 levels.

Hoping to smooth the transition to a new CEO, Google is keeping Schmidt, 55, in a prominent role as executive chairman and chief liaison with lawmakers and regulators around the world. That’s an important job as Google faces growing scrutiny over its ambitions to use its dominance in search to enter new markets. Brin, 37, intends to focus on long-term projects, leaving Page to manage Google’s daily operations.

“I am quite convinced that this change will result in faster decision-making, better success for the business and ultimately greater value for the shareholders,” Schmidt told The Associated Press after Google announced its shake-up in January.

In the past, the three made key decisions by committee, though Schmidt was the one responsible as CEO. Schmidt guided Google through an uninterrupted stretch of prosperity that has topped the performances of other technology trailblazers, including Apple and Microsoft, at similar stages of their corporate lives.

Page is better prepared to be CEO after a decade as Schmidt’s apprentice, said Douglas Merrill, who worked with both executives before leaving Google in 2008 as vice president of engineering.

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