Eric Schmidt

Google's Schmidt: Marissa Mayer got 'promotion'

July 17, 2012: 11:22 AM ET

Can you get "promoted" by another employer?

FORTUNE -- Google (GOOG) executive chairman Eric Schmidt appeared at Fortune Brainstorm Tech in Aspen last night, to debate the future of technology with Peter Thiel. But he didn't comment on the news that Google executive Marissa Mayer had just been named CEO of Yahoo (YHOO), so a Reuters reporter and I decided to ask him about it after he left the stage.

Schmidt first said that he already had issued a public statement, and that he was very happy for Mayer.

But that was just boilerplate. Remember, Google had already said that it would not have anyone take over Mayer's position as VP of local, maps and location services – instead letting several subordinates assume her duties. Sounded to me like Mayer had been marginalized at Google, and I asked Schmidt if that was a fair reading.

He was not terribly amused, saying impatiently that he was very happy for Marissa and that "she got a promotion." Sure Eric, but not from Google. When I made that point, he simply said "oh come on" and began to walk away.

In general, Mayer's surprise hiring was the talk of Brainstorm Tech attendees yesterday.

General consensus was that Yahoo wants to position itself as a tech product company rather than as a media/advertising company, the latter of which being the bailiwick of interim CEO Ross Levinsohn. I also heard a lot of skepticism, given that Levinsohn was generally viewed as having done a good job – particularly dealing with the Alibaba and Facebook patent issues – and because the Yahoo troops will now need to rally behind their fourth CEO in less than 12 months.

Should also be interesting to see where Levinsohn ends up next, since it's hard to imagine him remaining at Yahoo. A return to venture capital? Unlikely, but maybe in a temporary venture partner role until a suitable CEO gig arises?

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