Investor’s Business Daily has named Larry Page of Google “CEO of the year.” I think it jumped the gun. It is too early to be passing the honors. Why? First, Larry took over the CEO job in April 2011, so he hasn’t really had a full year under his belt. Sure, the company made some good progress on its social efforts. Android has been a monster hit, but it is not clear how much money it is bringing to the company. And frankly, Android would do well with or without Page: It is Andy Rubin who matters. But more importantly, Google’s stock was up just over 6.88 percent during 2011. Now, compared to a 4.45 percent decline in 2010, I guess investors should be happy that there was growth.
The financial news daily’s argument for naming him the CEO of the year:
He reorganized the company’s management structure, redesigned the face of the company’s products and pushed forward with a multibillion dollar deal to acquire a cellphone manufacturing outfit. He also launched two other products aiming at Groupon, the leader of online coupons, and Facebook, the top social networking site.
From where I sit, I see a lot of activity but very few results. However, I guess we are living in an era where activity counts for achievement. Want a comparison? Even boring old chip maker Qualcomm saw its stock price grow a shade over 9 percent in 2011. Intel? Its stock rose 16.31 percent, despite have a mobile strategy that is pinned on luck and a prayer.
How about a comparison with Apple and Tim Cook? Cook was officially named the CEO in August, though he has been running the company since Jan. 2011, when Jobs took a leave of absence. Apple’s stock gained over 22 percent in 2011. The death of Steve Jobs and incremental product launches didn’t stop the Cupertino juggernaut, which is on target to do yet another blowout quarter.
That said, I think it is too early to start passing the sobriquets. Let’s wait and see how Google deals with the negative impact of the Motorola acquisition. From what I hear, it is already putting a crimp on its hiring plans. I am not sure the problems that Motorola had as an independent company will go away under Page’s regime.
It is not just Google’s Page. I am withholding my judgment on Cook as well. Let’s wait and see how Cook shepherds Apple in 2012. Jobs once famously said that the iPhone was four years ahead of its competitors. Can Apple maintain that lead? The company has a lot to prove: Siri and iCloud are two examples of “works in progress,” and iAds is an unmitigated failure. Forget the basics; the big question is, Can Cook keep Apple’s creatives happy?
Anyway, if you twisted my arm and made me pick CEO of the year for 2011, I know one thing for sure: It wouldn’t be Larry Page.