Google founders to step down from running Alphabet, put Pichai in charge

Alphabet Inc. will enter the 2020s without two leaders who have been a constant presence since Google was launched out of a Silicon Valley garage more than 20 years ago.

Alphabet GOOG, +0.42% GOOGL, +0.46%  Chief Executive Larry Page and President Sergey Brin are exiting active management of the company immediately, the Google parent company announced Tuesday afternoon. Sundar Pichai, who has been chief executive of Google since the company transformed into the conglomerate known as Alphabet, will now function as chief executive of Alphabet as well as Google.

“With Alphabet now well-established, and Google and the Other Bets operating effectively as independent companies, it’s the natural time to simplify our management structure,” Page and Brin wrote in a letter posted Tuesday afternoon. “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.”

Page and Brin founded Google as Stanford University students in 1998, and quickly grew it to become one of the biggest forces of the new millennium. The company’s search engine quickly overtook rivals like Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. MSFT, -0.16%  to obtain a sizable majority of search traffic, and the acquisitions of digital-advertising company DoubleClick, video-sharing site YouTube and mobile operating-system company Android catapulted it well beyond just a search engine.

Most of the acquisitions and growth occurred while Page was not CEO from 2001 to 2011, but he was still highly involved with the day-to-day operations of the company with Eric Schmidt as the CEO. After retaining the CEO title in 2011, Page slowly slipped from the public spotlight, preferring to stay in the background, especially after moving to the new Alphabet corporate structure in 2015.

The change to Alphabet put Pichai in charge of Google, and largely made Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat the face of Alphabet, with Page as the manager of those two executives as well as a host of others with a “CEO” title.

Brin had less to do with actively managing Google as president of Alphabet, but was focused on Alphabet’s “Other Bets” — adventurous startups developed under the Alphabet umbrella, such as the autonomous-driving effort Waymo. Pichai will also oversee the Other Bets, according to Tuesday’s announcement.

Page and Brin will remain on Alphabet’s board of directors, and said in their letter that they “are deeply committed to Google and Alphabet for the long term, and will remain actively involved as board members, shareholders and co-founders.”

“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. “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!”

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