Novell's Schmidt joins Google as board chairman

Eric Schmidt, who announced two weeks ago that he would be giving up his post as CEO at Novell Inc., today was named chairman of the board at Internet search engine company Google Inc.

Schmidt, 45, will take on his new post immediately, according to an announcement by Mountain View, Calif.-based Google. But although Schmidt is stepping down as Novell's CEO (see story), he will continue as the software company's chairman and chief strategist, a Google spokeswoman said.

Novell is acquiring IT services and consulting firm Cambridge Technology Partners Inc. That company's CEO, Jack Messman, will become CEO of Novell when the deal is completed. Schmidt and other Novell officials have said Messman would be more appropriate as CEO because of the company's increasing focus on network services.

Schmidt also serves as chairman of Volera Inc., a maker of Web caching and content-management software that was spun off from Novell earlier this year (see story). In addition, he's a member of the board of directors at Siebel Systems Inc. in San Mateo, Calif.

Schmidt today said the chairman's role at Google gives him another forum for his technology interests that shouldn't cause any conflicts with his ongoing work at both Novell and Volera. As part of the deal with Google, Schmidt confirmed, he has made an undisclosed personal investment in the search-engine company.

"I'm going to do a number of things in the industry, and Google is one of them," Schmidt said, adding that the planned CEO change at Novell is unrelated to today's announcement. Schmidt said he plans to continue as Novell's CEO for several months until the acquisition of Cambridge Technology Partners is completed. "My interest is to remain the chairman of Novell and Volera until they kick me out," he said.

"Eric is widely acknowledged as a brilliant technologist and savvy business leader," said Larry Page, co-founder and CEO of Google, in a statement. "These qualities, combined with his entrepreneurial spirit and fit with Google's culture, make Eric the perfect addition to our board of directors."

Schmidt succeeds Sergey Brin, 27, the company's founding chairman and current president. Before joining Novell in 1997, Schmidt spent 14 years at Sun Microsystems Inc., where he served as chief technology officer and corporate executive officer.

Rob Lancaster, an analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston, said Schmidt's appointment shows that executives at Google are "getting more serious about their business than they have in the past." Brin, who has a technical background, is "stepping aside and letting a proven businessman take over as chairman of the board," he said.

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