Eric Schmidt to Steping Down as Google CEO

Google announced Thursday afternoon that chief executive Eric Schmidt will step aside and be succeeded by Larry Page, one of the search giant’s co-founders.

Schmidt, who joined Google as chief executive in 2001, said in a statement that the decision was aimed at simplifying the company’s management structure.

“As Google has grown, managing the business has become more complicated,” he said. “[W]e decided now was the right moment to make some changes to the way we are structured.”

Google named Schmidt executive chairman, and his duties will include forging external partnerships and conducting government outreach on the company’s behalf, according to the statement. The management change will take effect April 4, the company said.

The news came as the Mountain View, Calif.-based company reported a $2.54 billion profit in the fourth quarter of 2010, up 28 percent from the comparable period a year earlier.