Google's Schmidt gets $100M thank-you gift

Outgoing CEO to receive $100M in stock and stock options, will move to post of chairman

Eric Schmidt may have been pushed aside as Google's CEO, but he's getting a nice gift as he packs up his office.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that Google is giving Schmidt an "equity award" of $100 million in stock and stock options. The award is set to be vested over four years.

Google did not respond to requests for comment, but a spokeswoman told the Journal that it was the first award of that kind for Schmidt, who will be replaced in April by company co-founder Larry Page.

The Journal also reported that late last week, Schmidt filed documents to sell Google shares valued at $335 million. That will pare his current 9.6% share of Google's voting power down to 9.1%.

"I was so happy to see this news today," Gabriel Consulting Group analyst Dan Olds said with a laugh. "I'm glad that Schmidt will be taken care of financially as he transitions into his new, lesser role. I was concerned that the lower salary and, [presumably], benefits package might put him in a financial bind. This is one hell of a gold watch."

Olds added that it's not out of the ordinary for CEOs who are leaving their posts to get some kind of "going-away" package, but he said he was surprised by the size of this one.

News hit last Thursday, during Google's fourth-quarter earnings report, that Page will succeed Schmidt as the company's next chief executive. Schmidt will remain with the company as executive chairman, focusing on relations with customers, partners and government.

Schmidt, who had been chairman and CEO of Novell and chief technology officer at Sun Microsystems, had been brought in to run Google while its founders, Page and Sergey Brin, gained business experience. Now that the company is 12 years old, Page wanted to take his turn at the helm.

Whit Andrews, an analyst at Gartner Inc., said he suspects that with Facebook looming as a tough challenger, Google's co-founders wanted to reclaim power over the company so they could take on the social networking rival.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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