Thursday, September 29, 2022
Published 3 Years Ago on Wednesday, Dec 04 2019 By Inside Telecom Staff
By RACHEL LERMAN AP Technology Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google’s co-founders are relinquishing their executive positions just as state and federal regulators, not to mention the Department of Justice and Congress, are taking a keen interest in possible abuse of its privacy practices and market power.
But their long foreshadowed successor, Sundar Pichai, has
been well prepped to serve as the public face of the company in addition to his
current role as chief executive.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin are stepping down as CEO and
president, respectively, of Google parent company Alphabet. The move caps more
than two decades during which the pair have shepherded the one-time startup
they founded in a Silicon Valley garage.
Pichai, who has been Google’s CEO since 2015, will now also
head up Alphabet. The company isn’t filling Brin’s position as president.
Google is facing increasing criticism and investigations
from authorities in the U.S. and Europe about its privacy policies and nature
of its many-legged business. That will now fall to Pichai to wrangle and push
through — though Brin and Page, both 46, have noticeably backed out of the
Both stopped making appearances earlier this year at the
regular question-and-answer sessions with employees, and Page didn’t attend
this summer’s Alphabet shareholders meeting even though he was still in the CEO
Last year, Google raised hackles in Congress by refusing to
send Page or Pichai to a hearing on Russian manipulation of internet services
to sway U.S. elections. Congressional officials left an empty chair for Page at
the witness table; top executives from Facebook and Twitter, meanwhile, turned
up to testify. Offended lawmakers derided Google as “arrogant.”
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
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
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.
In its early days, Google focused on only one business —
cataloging the growing internet. Page and Brin started Google soon after they
met as Stanford University graduate students in 1995.
The company has now become one of the most influential
companies in the world. Google dominates online search and digital advertising
and makes the world’s most widely used operating system for smartphones,
Android. It’s hard to make it through a whole day without using one of Google’s
services — ranging from online tools to email, cloud computing systems, phones
and smart speaker hardware.
Bajarin doesn’t expect much to change with the executive
shuffle. And if anything does, he said, it will be due to government
Pichai assured employees in an internal email that his new
job wouldn’t mean he was taking a step back from Google.
“I want to be clear that this transition won’t affect
the Alphabet structure or the work we do day to day,” he wrote. “I
will continue to be very focused on Google and the deep work we’re doing to
push the boundaries of computing and build a more helpful Google for
Alphabet — an umbrella corporation that the two created in
2015 — still boasts Google as its central fixture and key moneymaker. But it’s
also made up of what are known as “other bets,” or longshot projects.
That includes drone company Wing and self-driving car firm Waymo.
Page and Brin, in announcing the news Tuesday, said the
company has “evolved and matured” in the two decades since its
founding. Both promised to stay active as board members and shareholders.
“Today, in 2019, if the company was a person, it would
be a young adult of 21 and it would be time to leave the roost,” they
wrote in a blog post.
Brin and Page still hold a majority of voting shares of
Alphabet. According to a regulatory filing in April, Page holds 26.1% of the
Google shareholder vote, while Brin holds 25.2% – both thanks to so-called
“super voting” shares.
According to Forbes magazine, Page has a net worth of $52.4
billion and Brin $56.8 billion.
“Keep in mind, they are not losing their title as
billionaires, but they are changing their roles,” Bajarin said.
Google’s longest serving CEO is still Eric Schmidt, the
former executive brought into the role in 2001 as a so-called “adult
supervisor” for Brin and Page. Schmidt stepped into the position as the
company’s board worried about the relative inexperience of Brin and Page to
manage the growing company. He remained CEO until 2011, when Page once again
became chief executive. Schmidt stayed on the board until this year.
Page grew up in Michigan, where his late father, Carl, was a
computer scientist and pioneer in artificial intelligence, and his mother
taught computer programming. Page began working on personal computers when he
was just 6 years old in 1979, when home computers were a rarity. The geeky
impulses carried into his adulthood, leading him to once build an inkjet
printer out of Legos.
AP Technology Writers Mae Anderson in New York and Barbara
Ortutay in San Francisco contributed to this story.
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