Google was founded and run by two graduate students in the late 1990s. Once the company hit the big time, though, they knew they needed more experience at the helm of their search engine behemoth. In Eric Schmidt, they found a man with the technological vision to guide a cutting-edge company, tempered with solid, real-world business experience.
In 2001, Schmidt joined Google as chief executive, charged with the mission of bringing clear direction to a company that had limitless opportunities. At nearly two decades older than the company's founders, Schmidt had a proven track record as a tech-sector executive. After completing an electrical engineering degree and a Ph.D in computer science, he'd worked for other heavyweights, such as Bell Labs, Xerox, Sun Microsystems and Novell.
Schmidt was well-known throughout Silicon Valley for his leadership experience. He is still noted for his strengths in Internet business strategies, and for his fearlessness in backing new and unproven technologies. His prowess isn't lost on others -- in addition to his duties at Google, he serves as a technology advisor to President Obama.
In 2004, Schmidt orchestrated Google's public stock offering. Those shares, which started at $85 each, blew past $600 each only three years later. The company's incredible success in the stock market made millionaires out of many Google employees, and Schmidt was a part of the action. He's now worth more than $4.4 billion, and thanks in large part to Schmidt, Google itself is valued at more than $140 billion.