Google shocked the business world this past spring when it snagged Ruth Porat to be its new chief financial officer. But as the inside story reveals, the move counts as one of the Internet giant’s easier moonshots.

The wooing began unwittingly early this year, when Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt visited Porat at Morgan Stanley [fortune-stock symbol=”MS”], where she was CFO. Schmidt had worked with Porat a decade earlier, when she co-headed tech investment banking at the firm and played a key role in taking Google public. He didn’t know her well, however, and his visit was purely casual. He didn’t tell Porat that Google’s current finance chief was considering leaving, or that Google [fortune-stock symbol=”GOOG”] would probably need a new CFO—a sophisticated, battle-tested veteran—to oversee a complex corporate restructuring.

He also had no idea that Porat was contemplating a career shift. She’d climbed the ranks at Morgan Stanley for…

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