Google Inc. surprised the technology world by naming co-founder Larry Page to replace longtime Chief Executive Eric Schmidt, the biggest management shake-up since the Internet search giant was an obscure California start-up.
Mr. Schmidt, who has been chairman and CEO but shared decision-making with Mr. Page and co-founder Sergey Brin, is stepping aside in April into the new post of executive chairman.

The company, which has grown into the world’s biggest Web company by market capitalization since its 2004 initial public offering, said it was making the changes to “streamline decision making and create clearer lines of responsibility and accountability.”

In a letter posted on Google’s blog, Mr. Schmidt, 55, said the company’s rapid growth has made managing business “more complicated.” He said that a decision was made “over the holidays” to change the company’s structure.

Mr. Page, 38, will take over day-to-day operations April 4. The computer scientist was Google’s founding CEO before handing the reins to Mr. Schmidt in August 2001. Google said Mr. Brin will focus on strategic projects such as new products.

As executive chairman, Mr. Schmidt said he will “focus wherever I can add the greatest value,” such as partnerships and government affairs, and that he will remain “an advisor to Larry and Sergey.”

“I have learned a ton from him over the years,” Mr. Page said of Mr. Schmidt in a conference call. “I cannot be more excited about moving us forward, and we are really only at the beginning.”

The transition has long been contemplated, according to a person familiar with the matter, and planning for it accelerated last year. People briefed on the matter said aspects of the personal relationship between Messrs. Page and Schmidt had also grown rockier over the past year.

Google spokeswomen said there has been no friction between the men, and some other people close to the men also said they didn’t detect a difference.

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