After two decades with the company, Stanford graduates and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are stepping down from their executive positions. To replace them, Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, will head both Google and its parent company, Alphabet.
Since its founding in 1998, Google has quickly grown into one of the world’s most profitable companies, dominating search, digital advertising, and video. And like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, the founders of Apple and Microsoft, respectively, Page and Brin have become figureheads in the fast-growing technology industry.
The pair’s early work on Google’s search engine changed how the world found information online. Page and Brin were also ahead of their time on their views on company culture. Google was among the first companies to offer employees free shuttle buses to the office. They also encouraged non-management employees to have a stake in the company — something that would become a model for the rest of Silicon Valley.
But in 2015, Page and Brin took lesser roles in the day-to-day operations of the company when they formed Alphabet, a holding company that focuses on newer technology like self-driving cars.
Since Alphabet, Page and Brin have spent more time overseeing a number of other new innovations, while chief executive, Sundar Pichai, ran Google and its enormous search and advertising business. While Alphabet is one of the most valuable companies in the world, recently the internet giant has been riddled with bad press.
The restructuring comes at a time of increased turmoil for Google. The company, known by the motto “don’t be evil,” has been criticized for management crackdown on dissent and opposition.
In November, Google fired four engineers for accessing internal information. However, the workers contest they lost their jobs over their labor-organizing efforts. The four will file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. And in 2018, thousands of Google workers around the world staged a walkout to protest sexual harassment and bad behavior by executives.
More recently, regulators in the U.S. and Europe are investigating how dominant Google is in search and advertising. Some are calling for the company to be broken up. There’s little indication that any of this is connected to Page and Brin stepping down, but it shows the company is going through significant changes.
Page and Brin have acknowledged the change. “Since we wrote our first founders’ letter, the company has evolved and matured,” they wrote in a letter on Google’s blog.
Page and Brin will remain directors on the company’s board and Alphabet’s two largest individual shareholders. They retain a majority of the company’s voting shares, which will give them effective control over the board and ensure they maintain a say over the company’s future.
The move confirms Pichai as one of tech’s most powerful people. Now he is the sole executive in charge of a company that has giant businesses in search, advertising, maps, smartphone software, and online video, as well as a variety of other technologies like drone deliveries and internet-beaming balloons.