Home Technology Google co-founders step away, making Sundar Pichai Alphabet's CEO

Google co-founders step away, making Sundar Pichai Alphabet’s CEO

Sundar Pichai

James Martin/CNET

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the former Stanford University students who founded Google out of a Silicon Valley garage, said Tuesday they are stepping aside as leaders of the internet behemoth they started two decades ago. Page and Brin are handing over the reins to Sundar Pichai, who will take over as CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet, in addition to his current responsibilities as cheif executive of the search giant.

The announcement comes four years after Google restructured itself under an umbrella called Alphabet. As part of the move, Google’s internet businesses, including its search engine and maps app, were separated from more experimental projects like driverless cars. Pichai became CEO of Google, and Page and Brin controlled Alphabet.

Now Pichai, an Indian immigrant, is in charge of it all. 

“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 said in a statement. “We’ve never been ones to hold on to management roles when we think there’s a better way to run the company.”

The cofounders said they would stay active as board members. “I’m excited about Alphabet and its long term focus on tackling big challenges through technology,” Pichai said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to continuing to work with Larry and Sergey in our new roles.” 

Pichai’s ascension comes as Google and Alphabet face scrutiny from all sides. The company faces antitrust probes from both federal and state officials. Tensions also continue to escalate between Google management and rank-and-file employees. Activists within the search giant have protested several decisions by leadership, including the signing of an artificial intelligence contract with the Pentagon, Google’s work in China, and leadership’s handling of sexual assault allegations.

Alphabet board chairman John Hennessy applauded the work Page and Brin did as founders. “It’s impossible to overstate Larry and Sergey’s contributions over the past 21 years. I’m grateful that they will continue their involvement on the Board.”

Wall Street wasn’t phased by the changing of the guard. The company’s stock went up less than one percent in after-hours training. 

Page and Brin, who founded Google more than two decades ago as grad students at Stanford University, have become Silicon Valley royalty. But the two have been sharply criticized as they’ve receded into the background during the most tumultuous time in the company’s history. When leaders from Facebook and Twitter were summoned before Congress last year, Page and Pichai were a no-show. Next to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, there was an empty seat with a name tag that said “Google.”


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