Google Said to Pick Own Executive to Replace Jha as Motorola Mobility CEO

Google Inc. (GOOG), which won U.S. approval for its acquisition of Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. (MMI), is close to naming Dennis Woodside to run the business when the deal closes, three people familiar with the matter said.

Woodside, who led Google’s ad sales in the Americas before leaving that job to oversee the merger, would succeed Motorola Mobility Chief Executive Officer Sanjay Jha, said the people, who declined to be named because the decision isn’t public.

Google is buying Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, gaining a trove of more than 17,000 patents that will help it fend off legal challenges to its Android mobile-phone software. The company is grappling with competition in smartphones and tablets from Apple Inc. (AAPL), whose software only runs on its own devices, contrasting with Google’s approach of licensing the Android software to multiple manufacturers.

“The main thing he’ll need to figure out is what sort of hardware strategy is needed to offset the assault by Apple,” said Sameet Sinha, an analyst at B. Riley & Co. in San Francisco, who has a buy rating on the stock and doesn’t own it. “It’s an interesting choice.”

Woodside emerged as a favorite from a short list that included Christy Wyatt, Motorola Mobility senior vice president, and Chief Strategy Officer John Bucher, one person said.

Google shares fell less than 1 percent to $606.11 at the close in New York. Motorola Mobility was little changed at $39.73.

Leading Transition

As part of his role leading the transition, Woodside reported to Google CEO Larry Page and Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette. Woodside took over as president of the Americas region in 2009 when Tim Armstrong left Google to become CEO of AOL Inc.

Jill Hazelbaker, a spokeswoman for Mountain View, California-based Google, said the company doesn’t comment on rumor or speculation. The acquisition hasn’t closed, she said. Jennifer Erickson, a spokeswoman for Libertyville, Illinois- based Motorola Mobility, also declined to comment.

“We’re focused on running the business and getting the deal closed and wouldn’t comment beyond that on executive changes,” she said.

International Experience

Since joining Google in 2003, Woodside had served as vice president in charge of the U.K., Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. He also set up direct-sales operations in Eastern Europe. Before that, he worked at McKinsey & Co.

Under Woodside, sales in the U.S. rose to $17.6 billion in 2011 from $10.6 billion in 2008, an increase of about 65 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Earlier this month, U.S. and European Union officials signed off on Google’s plan to purchase Motorola Mobility. Google still needs approval from China for the deal to be completed.

The acquisition -- the largest wireless-equipment deal in at least a decade, according to data compiled by Bloomberg -- makes Google a competitor to other handset makers that build Android devices. In addition to running on Motorola Mobility phones, the software works on handsets made by companies such as Samsung Electronics Co. and HTC Corp.

Google has said that the acquisition won’t mean it favors Motorola Mobility in its dealings regarding Android. The company plans to separately report financial information for Motorola Mobility and Google.

“We’ve been very clear that Motorola is obviously going to remain a licensee of Android, and Android will remain open,” Page said during a call with analysts last month. “We have done a great job managing our partner ecosystem. That’s a difficult thing to do, and I think we do it quite well. And I expect we’re going to continue to do that well with Motorola.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Peter Burrows in San Francisco at pburrows@bloomberg.net; Brian Womack in San Francisco at bwomack1@bloomberg.net; Hugo Miller in Toronto at hugomiller@bloomberg.net

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