Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are stepping down from their roles at the helm of parent firm Alphabet Inc, and handing the reins to Google chief executive officer Sundar Pichai, the company said on Tuesday.
Pichai is to take over from Page as chief executive officer of the holding firm, a Silicon Valley titan that includes Google as well as units focused on “other bets” in areas including self-driving vehicles and life sciences.
Page and Brin, who is Alphabet president, “will continue their involvement as cofounders, shareholders and members of Alphabet’s board of directors,” the company said.
In a letter to employees, the two wrote: “We’ve never been ones to hold on to management roles when we think there’s a better way to run the company.”
They added that 46-year-old Pichai “brings humility and a deep passion for technology to our users, partners and our employees every day,” and that there is “no better person to lead Google and Alphabet into the future.”
Alphabet was formed in 2015, giving separate identities to Google and newer projects such as autonomous vehicle unit Waymo and smart cities group Sidewalk Labs.
Pichai, born in India, takes the helm at a time when Page and Brin, both 46, have been noticeably absent, and the company faces a torrent of controversies relating to its dominant position in the tech world.
“Google is the vast, vast majority of Alphabet in terms of revenues, profit and everything else, so why not put the guy doing a great job running all of that in charge of [the] whole company?” Technalysis Research chief analyst Bob O’Donnell said.
Pichai is likely to fill a void at the company as it faces antitrust investigations and controversies over privacy and data practices in the US and elsewhere.
The company has also faced allegations of failing to adequately address sexual harassment in the workplace and of straying from the ideals espoused by the founders in the company’s early code of conduct, which included the motto “don’t be evil.”
“He’s a technologist, but he’s been a steady hand for the last few years and has proven his ability to conduct business at the highest level,” Endpoint Technologies Associates analyst Roger Kay said.
The move “ratifies that the [Google] founders have stepped aside almost entirely,” he added.
Pichai would have a new role as he faces up to claims from US President Donald Trump of “bias” in Internet search results, and the latest charge from Amnesty International that Alphabet’s business model leads to human rights violations by enabling surveillance of users.
In the past few years, Alphabet has become one of the world’s most valuable companies, with a profit of about US$30 billion on revenue of US$136.8 billion last year.
The 2015 reorganization appeared aimed at installing the start-up mentality for new ventures, described by Google as “moonshots.”
These ventures, including the life sciences group Verily and the biotech operation Calico, have been losing money.
Kay said the “other bets” have been struggling, because even though they have the financial backing from Google’s profits, “they don’t have the do-or-die element” of other start-ups.
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