Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Eric Who? Wall Street Says Google's CEO Swap Is No Big Deal (So Why Is It Selling?)

Yesterday Google swapped out CEOs, replacing the man at the top of the search giant for the past 10 years with one of the company’s co-founders.

No big deal, Google said–just a little re-org.

And at first blush, Wall Street seemed to take the company at its word. Eric Schmidt, Larry Page, whatever. A sampling of analyst reactions:

  • J.P. Morgan’s Imran Khan: “We think it is important to note that although the titles have changed, the core team remains the same. We think this new team structure makes a lot of sense and could result in faster decision making.”
  • Citigroup’s Mark Mahaney: “We view this change as un-dramatic, as Eric Schmidt will still be working closely with Page and Brin…we believe Larry Page has been groomed for the role of CEO, and we don’t expect any dramatic changes to Google’s core strategies.
  • Barclays’ Douglas Anmuth: “We don’t actually view it as that material of a change. We still think Google will be run in a similar manner as it is today, and mostly by the same people.”

Investors also seemed to yawn, or at least they seemed to last night: Google stock moved up a little bit after the market closed, but that was it.

Today, though, the story is harder to discern from the GOOG chart, which is one of the reasons you should always be wary when someone tells you with confidence why a stock is moving one way or another.

Watch the huge spike at this morning’s open, and then the steady decline. This was taken shortly before noon, New York time:

Again, don’t make too much of a stock’s movement on any given day. But you do have to wonder if any of this reflects a reassessment of the move.

It is definitely true that Larry Page was deeply involved in every major decision Google grappled with, and it’s undeniable that the company relies on a second tier of executives, like CFO Patrick Pichette and sales boss Nikesh Arora, to make the trains run on time. So, easy enough to argue that there’s no real change.

Still, now we’re seeing reports reminding us that the weird power-sharing arrangement between Schmidt, Page and co-founder Sergey Brin was, in fact, a weird arrangement. And that it didn’t always work smoothly. And that the three men may not have been on the same page about a variety of things. Which means that the company may in fact behave differently under Page’s guidance.

Which again, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it could be a new thing–and Wall Street never quite knows what to make of that.

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