Eric Schmidt to sell more than £1.5bn of Google stock

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt is cashing in 42 per cent of his stock in the Internet search giant, which he helped found back in 1998.

Based on current share prices ($785.37 at close of play on Friday, 8 February), the sale is expected to net Schmidt more than $2.5 billion (£1.6 billion). The Google kingpin is tipped to flog 3.2 million of his 7.6 million Class A common shares in the NASDAQ company through a trading plan, according to Reuters.

The move was revealed via a filing with the US Securities and Exchange commission.

Analysts have been quick to downplay suggestions that Schmidt's move signals a lack of confidence in Google, which is the market leader in Internet search and also produces Android - the world's most popular mobile platform (by units shipped).

"I'd be more worried if the current CEO or CFO sold a lot of their stake," Wedbush Securities analyst James Dix told Reuters.

Other onlookers speculated that Schmidt may be planning to diversify his business interests.

"My speculation is that Eric's relationship with Google is evolving. I would assume that as he decides he wants to diversify away from Google -both his career and financially - he's got ideas of what he would like to do with some of his funds," commented Needham & Co analyst Kerry Rice.

Schmidt served as Google CEO until April 2011, when co-founder Larry Page took the driver's seat at the Mountain View-based firm.

Since loosening his grip on the Google reins, Schmidt has increasingly operated as a de facto ambassador for US technology interests.

In January, Schmidt toured North Korea, urging the isolationist nation to ease Internet restrictions. The Google luminary also recently denounced China as the "world's most sophisticated hacker."