Google has announced that Eric Schmidt will be stepping down as chief executive of the company.
The search firm said that co-founder Larry Page will take over, while Schmidt's role will transition to focusing on external deals such as partnerships and government outreach.
Schmidt insisted that the move was part of a "streamlining" effort rather than a management shake up.
"We've been talking about how best to simplify our management structure and speed up decision making for a long time," he said.
"By clarifying our individual roles we'll create clearer responsibility and accountability at the top of the company."
Schmidt has been chief executive of Google for some 10 years as the company built on its search business to become one of the largest tech firms and expand its business into web applications, services and mobility.
Google has insisted that Schmidt will remain with the firm and that the transition is merely part of Google's growth plans, but the critics were quick to disagree.
US-based advocacy group Consumer Watchdog hailed the move, accusing Schmidt of compromising Google's values in order to grow its business. The group blasted Schmidt for his handling of recent privacy concerns, in particular the Wi-Fi data scandal.
"Schmidt used to claim that Google put its money where its values were," said Comsumer Watchdog Inside Google director John M. Simpson.
"In fact, while Schmidt had his hand on the helm, values were changed to go where the money was."
News of the change overshadowed an otherwise solid financial year for Google. The company reported revenues of $8.44bn (£5.3bn) for the quarter, up 26 per cent from the previous year.
Google's own sites brought in 67 per cent of revenues, while the AdSense platform contributed 30 per cent.
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