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Google's Schmidt says he won't resign from Apple board amid inquiry

May 7, 2009 |  4:37 pm
Google CEO Eric Schmidt
Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt. Credit: Denis Poroy / Associated Press

Google acknowledged today that the Federal Trade Commission was making antitrust inquiries into ties between the search giant and Apple. But Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said that relinquishing his seat on the Apple board of directors "hasn't crossed my mind."

"I don’t think Google sees Apple as a primary competitor," Schmidt told reporters before the company's annual shareholder meeting in Mountain View, Calif.  And if board discussion turns toward a business area in which the two companies more closely face off -- mobile phones being the primary example, with Google's Android operating system vying against Apple's iPhone -- Schmidt says he recuses himself.

Google General Counsel Kent Walker pointed to the Clayton Antitrust Act, which he said allowed companies to share board members as long as the companies don't have "overlapping revenues." The inquiry was first reported by the New York Times on Monday.

Google is also the focus of a separate inquiry by the Justice Department in relation to its project to digitize millions of books. But executives said they welcomed the scrutiny and that market leaders should not be immune from it.

"We should expect governments around the world to pay attention to what we do," Schmidt said, "and also to hold us to the principles that we've articulated."

-- David Sarno