Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin stepped down from their roles at the helm of parent company Alphabet and handed over the reins to current Google CEO Sundar Pichai, said the company on Tuesday.
Pichai will take over from Page as CEO of the holding company, a Silicon Valley titan that involves both Google and “other bet” units in areas including self-driving cars and life sciences. Page and Brin, currently president of Alphabet, “will continue to be involved as co-founders, shareholders and members of the board of directors of Alphabet,” the company said.
The two wrote in a letter to staff: “We’ve never been the ones to hold on to management roles when we think there’s a better way to run the business.”
They added that Sundar Pichai, 46, “brings modesty and a deep passion for technology every day to our customers, partners and employees,” and that there is “no better person to lead Google and Alphabet into the future.”
Alphabet was created in 2015, providing Google with separate identities and new projects such as Waymo autonomous car unit and Sidewalk Labs smart cities.
Born in India, Sundar Pichai takes the helm at a time when both Page and Brin, 46, were noticeably absent, and the company is facing a torrent of controversy over 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?” said Bob O’Donnell, chief analyst at Technalysis Research.
Sundar Pichai: Investigations and Controversies
In the face of antitrust lawsuits and scandals over privacy and information policies in the United States and elsewhere, Pichai is likely to fill a void in the business.
The company also experienced accusations of failing to address sexual harassment adequately in the workplace and deviating from the ideals embraced by the founders in the early code of conduct of the company, 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,” said Roger Kay, an analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates.
Kay added the move “ratifies that the (Google) founders have stepped aside almost entirely.”
Sundar Pichai will have a new role as he faces up to claims from 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.
Earlier this year, Pichai met with Trump and appeared to ease the US president’s concerns that Google was unwilling to help the US military and was boosting China and its military.
Trump tweeted after the March meeting that Pichai was “totally committed” to US security.
Last December, Sundar Pichai kept calm while testifying in Congress as he parried US lawmakers over complaints of political bias and intrusive data collection.
“We build our products in a neutral way,” Pichai said in one exchange with a lawmaker, and added later: “We approach our work without any political bias.”