Pichai takes reins at Alphabet as Google co-founders retreat

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Internet search giant Google CEO Sundar Pichai will replace absentee CEO Larry Page at the helm of parent company Alphabet.

Google co-founders Page and Sergey Brin wrote a letter yesterday indicating that Indian American business executive, Pichai, will be taking over at the 21-year-old company.

According to The Economic Times, this change was long overdue as Page had grown increasingly invisible inside and outside the company, and he was no longer doing the job required of a powerful corporate chieftain in 2019.

Say Page and Brin in the letter: “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. 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!”

They adds that with Alphabet now well-established, and Google and the Other Bets operating effectively as independent companies, it’s the natural time to simplify the company’s management structure.

While publicly stepping back, the co-founders still control more than 51% of shares. As of April, Page held 26.1% of Alphabet’s total voting power, Brin 25.25% and Pichai less than 1%.

Evolution and maturity

Page and Brin say since they wrote their first founders’ letter, the company has evolved and matured.

Within Google, they note, there are all the popular consumer services that followed Search, such as Maps, Photos and YouTube; a global ecosystem of devices powered by the Android and Chrome platforms, including the company’s own Made by Google devices; Google Cloud, including GCP and G Suite; and a base of fundamental technologies around machine learning, cloud computing and software engineering.

“It’s an honour that billions of people have chosen to make these products central to their lives – this is a trust and responsibility that Google will always work to live up to.

“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.

“He will be the executive responsible and accountable for leading Google, and managing Alphabet’s investment in our portfolio of Other Bets. We are deeply committed to Google and Alphabet for the long term, and will remain actively involved as board members, shareholders and co-founders. In addition, we plan to continue talking with Sundar regularly, especially on topics we’re passionate about!”

According to the co-founders, Pichai brings humility and a deep passion for technology to Google users, partners and employees.

“He’s worked closely with us for 15 years, through the formation of Alphabet, as CEO of Google, and a member of the Alphabet board of directors. He shares our confidence in the value of the Alphabet structure, and the ability it provides us to tackle big challenges through technology. There is no one that we have relied on more since Alphabet was founded, and no better person to lead Google and Alphabet into the future.

“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. 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.”

‘Uncomfortably exciting’

Pichai wrote his own e-mail to Googlers on Tuesday, 3 December.

“When I was visiting Googlers in Tokyo a few weeks ago, I talked about how Google has changed over the years. In fact, in my 15+ years with Google, the only constant I’ve seen is change. This process of continuous evolution – which the founders often refer to as ‘uncomfortably exciting’ – is part of who we are.

“I first met Larry and Sergey back in 2004 and have been benefiting from their guidance and insights ever since. The good news is I’ll continue to work with them – although in different roles for them and me. They’ll still be around to advise as board members and co-founders.

“I want to be clear that this transition won't affect the Alphabet structure or the work we do day-to-day. 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.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Alphabet, which owns more than a dozen companies, including self-driving car technology business Waymo and healthcare software company Verily, emerged in 2015 as part of a restructuring of Google.

It adds that Page, who is known for having big expectations and strong thoughts on technological details, had wanted to focus on developing those newer businesses, which collectively lose money. He left Alphabet’s biggest and most profitable unit, Google, to Pichai, who heavily delegates to deputies to manage various product lines. Brin had stayed on as Alphabet’s president, spending some time on robotics and other research projects.

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