Mr Brin (left) and Mr Page started Google in 1995 after meeting at Stanford University. (AP: Paul Sakuma)
The co-founders of Google are stepping down as executives of its parent company, Alphabet, ending a remarkable two decades that transformed a Silicon Valley start-up into one of the most powerful companies in the world.
- Larry Page and Sergey Brin are stepping down as Alphabet CEO and president respectively
- Google CEO Sundar Pichai will take on the Alphabet CEO role but the president role won’t be filled
- The two co-founders will remain active as board members and shareholders
Larry Page and Sergey Brin started Google soon after they met as Stanford University graduate students in 1995.
In announcing the news of their resignation, they said the company had “evolved and matured” since its founding.
Sundar Pichai, who has been leading Google as CEO for more than four years, will take on additional duties as Alphabet’s CEO, the position held by Mr Page.
The company is not filling Mr Brin’s position of president.
Google virtually ubiquitous but not immune from criticism
What began as a way to catalogue the growing internet 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 is 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.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai will take on the Alphabet CEO role in addition to his existing duties.
(Reuters: Stephen Lam)
Yet 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.
Google is the subject of antitrust inquiries from Congress, the Department of Justice and a contingency of states in the US and from 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.
Google makes ‘other bets’ with Wing and Waymo
@sundarpichai link tweet: I’m excited about Alphabet’s long term focus on tackling big challenges through technology. Thanks to Larry & Sergey, we have a timeless mission, enduring values and a culture of collaboration & exploration – a strong foundation we’ll continue to build on.
Longtime tech analyst Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies said he did not expect much to change with the executive shuffle.
And if anything does, he said, it would be due to government regulation.
Mr Pichai assured employees in an internal email that his new job would not 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 everyone.”
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.
Co-founders have been absent in past year
Both Mr Page and Mr Brin 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.
The co-founders, both 46, both have been noticeably absent from Google events in the past year.
Both stopped making appearances at the weekly question-and-answer sessions with employees, and Mr Page did not attend this summer’s Alphabet shareholders meeting even though he was still in the CEO role.
Alphabet has been positioning Mr Pichai as the de facto leader for quite some time.
A tech analyst said Mr Pichai’s role at Google had been preparing him for increased government scrutiny. (Clay McLachlan: Reuters)
It has made him the top executive voice at shareholders meetings, and as a spokesman at congressional hearings.
Mr Pichai, 47, has worked at the company for 15 years, serving as a leader in projects to build Google’s Chrome browser and overseeing Android.
Mr 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.
Government scrutiny of big tech likely to increase
@jonerlichman photo tweet: 1998: Larry Page and Sergey Brin launch Google in a Menlo Park garage. 1999: They try to sell Google for $750,000 but are turned down. 2019: They step down from their roles at Google’s parent company Alphabet. Their combined stake in the company is worth $123.3 billion.
Last year, Google raised hackles in Congress by refusing to send Mr Page or Mr Pichai to a hearing on Russian manipulation of internet services to sway US elections.
Congressional officials left an empty chair while top executives from Facebook and Twitter appeared.
Offended lawmakers derided Google as “arrogant”.
Although Mr Bajarin said he did not believe Mr Brin and Mr Page were leaving “because the fire is getting hotter,” he said Mr Pichai’s role at Google had been preparing him for the increased government scrutiny.
Mr Brin and Mr Page still hold a majority of voting shares of Alphabet.
According to a regulatory filing in April, Mr Page holds 42.9 per cent of the company’s Class B shares and 26.1 per cent of its voting power.
Mr Brin holds 41.3 per cent of the Class B shares and 25.2 per cent of the voting power.
According to Forbes magazine, Mr 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,” Mr Bajarin said.
Google’s stock rose in value less than 1 per cent in after-hours trading after the news was announced.
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 Mr Brin and Mr Page.
Mr Schmidt stepped into the position as the company’s board worried about the relative inexperience of Mr Brin and Mr Page to manage the growing company.
He remained CEO until 2011, when Mr Page once again became chief executive.
Mr Schmidt stayed on the board until this year.
Mr 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.
He began working on personal computers when he was just six 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 Lego.