End of an era as Google co-founders step down from leadership roles, with Sundar Pichai taking over the Alphabet CEO position
It is now the end of an era at Google, after its two co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, announced they were stepping down from leadership roles at the firm.
The management shakeup at Google comes just a week after another significant shakeup at fellow tech giant Apple, when chief designer Sir Jony Ive officially exited the iPad maker.
Page and Brin announced their decision in a blog post on the matter on Tuesday, during which they touched upon how they undertook a huge corporate restructuring of Google in 2015, until it eventually became a business unit of the holding company Alphabet, whose holdings now include Google, YouTube, Nest and Waymo.
“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,” said both men. “While it has been a tremendous privilege to be deeply involved in the day-to-day management of the company for so long, we believe it’s time to assume the role of proud parents – offering advice and love, but not daily nagging!”
“With Alphabet now well-established, and Google and the Other Bets operating effectively as independent companies, it’s the natural time to simplify our management structure,” they wrote. “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. Going forward, Sundar will be the CEO of both Google and Alphabet.”
“We are deeply committed to Google and Alphabet for the long term, and will remain actively involved as Board members, shareholders and co-founders,” both men said. “In addition, we plan to continue talking with Sundar regularly, especially on topics we’re passionate about!”
It should be noted that both Page and Brin, while now being board members only, still hold 51 percent of voting rights at the firm, so still have ultimate control of the company.
In 2013 Larry Page revealed he suffered from a rare medical condition affecting his vocal chords, which makes it difficult for him to speak. Page also revealed at the time that as his condition makes him choose his words more carefully, his friends believe he is a better CEO for it.
“We are deeply humbled to have seen a small research project develop into a source of knowledge and empowerment for billions – a bet we made as two Stanford students that led to a multitude of other technology bets,” Page and Brin concluded. “We could not have imagined, back in 1998 when we moved our servers from a dorm room to a garage, the journey that would follow.”
“I want to be clear that this transition won’t affect the Alphabet structure or the work we do day to day,” added Sundar Pichai. “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 everyone. At the same time, I’m excited about Alphabet and its long term focus on tackling big challenges through technology.”
The departure of the two co-founders comes at bit of a difficult period for Alphabet and Google.
Earlier this week the European Commission confirmed it is investigating Google’s collection and use of data, suggesting the EU has further regulatory action in store for the search and advertising giant.
The Commission has already levied more than 8 billion euros (£6.84bn) in fines on Google in recent years and ordered it to change its business practices.
And then last month Google fired four employees as they were allegedly in violation of the Alphabet unit’s strict data security policies.
Tensions with staff seems to be ongoing in recent times. In April this year for example, at a ‘town hall’ meeting, staff alleged that Google regularly retaliates against employees who speak out.
And then on 21 October, several dozen workers at Google’s office in Zurich reportedly held an event about workers’ rights and unionisation, despite their managers’ attempts to cancel it.
In September contract workers for Google in Pittsburgh voted to join the United Steelworkers union.
But the biggest bone of contention in the past 18 months has been caused by sexual harassment concerns.
Last November 20,000 Google staff around the world staged a mass walkout to protest at the lenient treatment and payouts for executives accused of sexual harassment.
And some workers have complained about Google allegedly implementing a ‘tracking tool’ on employee’s web browsers and hiring a consulting firm known for anti-union work – as attempts to curb activism. Google for its part has denied those charges.