Media Moves

Google co-founders step down

December 4, 2019

Posted by Irina Slav

Google’s co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page have announced they will step down from their executive roles with Sundar Pichai to become CEO of parent company Alphabet.

Jack Nicas and Daisuke Wakabayashi reported the news for The New York Times:

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the Stanford graduate students who founded Google over two decades ago, are stepping down from executive roles at Google’s parent company, Alphabet, they announced on Tuesday.

Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, will become the chief of both Google and Alphabet.

The move is an end of an era for Google. Mr. Page and Mr. Brin have personified the company since its founding and have been two of the technology industry’s most influential figures, on a par with the founders of Apple and Microsoft, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

Their early work on the Google search engine helped corral an unruly cloud of information on the World Wide Web. And their ideas about how to run an internet company — like offering generous employee perks like free shuttle buses to the office and making rank-and-file employees feel as though they have a stake in the company — became a standard for Silicon Valley.

Mr. Page and Mr. Brin took lesser roles in day-to-day operations in 2015 when they turned Google into Alphabet, a holding company that includes the self-driving car company Waymo under its umbrella.

CNN’s Kaya Yurieff reported:

The cofounders will continue to serve on Alphabet’s board of directors. They also maintain voting control over the business, all but guaranteeing their ability to influence the direction of Alphabet with or without their executive titles.

“We’ve never been ones to hold on to management roles when we think there’s a better way to run the company. And Alphabet and Google no longer need two CEOs and a President,” they wrote in a letter.

The executive shuffle comes at a time when Google is facing mounting scrutiny. Regulators and politicians in the US and Europe have questioned the company’s size, data privacy practices and potential impact on society. Page, once the face of the company, has largely receded from public view.

Page has been absent from the company’s quarterly earnings calls, and notably hasn’t appeared at big tech hearings on Capitol Hill. In 2018, Page was called before the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating foreign election meddling, but didn’t show. Last year, Bloomberg Businessweek published an article headlined “Where in the World is Larry Page?”

Meanwhile, Page has been investing in flying car startups.

At the same time, Google is confronting growing tensions with its own employees. Last week, Google dismissed several outspoken workers for allegedly violating its data-security policies. Some employees quickly accused Google of trying to suppress its critics, as well as workers’ attempts to organize.

AP’s Rachel Lerman wrote:

Although longtime tech analyst Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies said he doesn’t believe Brin and Page are leaving “because the fire is getting hotter,” he said Pichai’s role at Google has been preparing him for the increased government scrutiny.

Pichai testified before Congress last December for the first time, defending the company against claims from Republicans that the search service is biased against conservatives.

Alphabet has been positioning Pichai as the de facto leader for quite some time. It has also made him the top executive voice at shareholders meetings and on earnings call. Recently, Pichai changed the format of the employee question-and-answer sessions from a weekly occurrence to a monthly one.

Pichai, a 47-year-old immigrant from India, has worked at the company for 15 years, serving as a leader in projects to build Google’s Chrome browser and overseeing Android. Pichai, who has an engineering background, took over as the head of Google’s products before being promoted to CEO when Alphabet was created. He is known as a soft-spoken and respected manager.

Google has been facing pressure from privacy advocates over its collection and use of personal information to target advertising. It also faces allegations that it abuses its dominance in search and online advertising to push out rivals.

The company is the subject of antitrust inquiries from Congress, the Department of Justice, a group of U.S. state attorneys general and European authorities. The company has also faced harsh criticism about the material on its services. Its video streaming business, YouTube, was fined $170 million to settle allegations it improperly collected personal data on children without their parents’ consent.


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