December 27, 2011, 6:34 PM — This is the sixth post for "My personal, hand-selected top 11 tech stories of 2011." You can read the first five by clicking on the links at the bottom.
Unlike any year in memory, 2011 was notable for the unusual number of changes in the corner offices of the world's largest and most high-profile tech companies.
Some CEOs left voluntarily, while others were forced out. Some left the companies they headed in better shape. Others, not so much.
Here are the five most significant tech CEO changes in 2011:
Google: Eric Schmidt out, Larry Page in
The search giant stunned tech analysts and media in mid-January when it announced its fourth-quarter earnings and threw in an, "Oh yeah, we're also changing our CEO."
And just like that, Eric Schmidt was out, and Google co-founder Larry Page was in (though the change actually didn't take effect until April).
Schmidt, of course, remains on as executive chairman of the Google board and a valuable member of the strategic team. But the "adult" of the management team was worn down from privacy battles and antitrust allegations. And he just may have thought Page was the person to keep Google competitive in the social/mobile age. Whatever the back story, the Google CEO change appears to have been a well-planned transition made from a position of strength and stability. Unlike the next one.
Yahoo: Bartz runs out of bluster
Yahoo chief executive Carol Bartz always kept board members and shareholders off her back with belligerent defensiveness and perpetual demands for patience.
It actually appeared to have been working, too, with Bartz more than halfway through a four-year contract and directors seemingly unwilling to confront her over her inability to grow revenue or share price for Yahoo in her 2 1/2 years as CEO.
So even though Bartz was the subject of relentless criticism -- for her inability to articulate a vision for Yahoo, for her needless antagonism of Alibaba CEO Jack Ma, a powerful and valuable business partner, for her palpably high self-regard -- it appeared the board was going to take the
coward's easy way out and let Bartz play out the string.
Yahoo made CFO Tim Morse interim chief executive, but the board is having trouble deciding the company's future, never mind finding a replacement.