Google's Eric Schmidt Says He Will Stay Put `As Long As It's Exciting'

Google Inc.’s Eric Schmidt said he has no plans to leave the owner of the world’s largest search engine, dismissing speculation he’s considering a career in media or politics.

Schmidt said last week he will step down as chief executive officer in favor of Google co-founder Larry Page and become executive chairman. Schmidt is “committed to Google,” he told reporters at the Digital-Life-Design conference in Munich today. “How long are you committed to doing what you’re doing? As long as it’s exciting,” he said in response to a question about his plans.

Schmidt, 55, may be considering a career as a television host, the New York Post reported yesterday. Ken Auletta, author of “Googled: The End of the World as We Know It,” told Bloomberg TV last week that Schmidt may be weighing a role in the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.

“Maybe he’ll find some kind of astonishing offer, either at a startup or at a foundation or from a political unit, but today, he’s hanging on to the right to define his job as he sees fit while continuing to make a pile of money,” said Whit Andrews, a Shrewsbury, Massachusetts-based analyst at Gartner Inc. “Why wouldn’t you stay? He has nothing to lose by staying at Google except opportunity cost.”

Google rose $8.83 to $619.91 at 4 p.m. in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The shares dropped 4.2 percent last year.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

By turning to Page, Google may be aiming to rekindle the entrepreneurial spirit that helped it grow into one of the world’s most valuable companies. The new CEO of the Mountain View, California-based company will confront challenges from Facebook Inc., Apple Inc. and startups such as Groupon Inc. in social networking, entertainment and retail.

As executive chairman, “a lot of my time” will be devoted to dealing with regulators and other government officials, Schmidt said. “We’ve got very complicated government issues,” he said, adding that “we move quickly, and we tend to be disruptive at scale.”

European Union officials opened a formal antitrust probe last year into Google search results, while in China the company opted to shut down its mainland search engine rather than censor results for user queries.

“Things have been stable since June” in China, when Google had its business license renewed, Schmidt said today. “But you never know; it’s possible for the government to cause us to not work.”

The company is now pushing into entertainment with Google TV, combining Internet access with on-demand television.

‘Not a Threat’

While Google signed Sony Corp. and Logitech International SA as initial product partners, it has been blocked from offering shows available at CBS Corp.’s TV.com, the major U.S. networks’ own Web pages and Hulu.com, the site owned by General Electric Co.’s NBC, News Corp. and ABC parent Walt Disney Co. The broadcasters are all trying to capture the shift toward on- demand viewing, which ratings company Nielsen Co. has said is surging in the U.S.

Google TV will be “much more effective if the broadcasters are supportive,” and the company is trying to convince them it’s not a threat, Schmidt said today. “We believe it’s going to lead to more TV watching, which is good for them.”

Another of Google’s new products, the Google Offers discounting service, is designed for a different niche than existing sites such as Groupon, Schmidt said. Groupon rebuffed a $6 billion acquisition offer from Google last year, and CEO Andrew Mason said yesterday the company will remain independent.

“Their success doesn’t negatively affect us at all,” and Google’s own offering is different from those of Groupon and its competitors, Schmidt said today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Campbell in Munich via the Paris newsroom at mcampbell39@bloomberg.net; Ragnhild Kjetland in Frankfurt at rkjetland@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Vidya Root at vroot@bloomberg.net

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