Silicon Valley was hit with a surprise announcement Thursday: Eric Schmidt is stepping down as executive chairman of Google's parent company, Alphabet.
According to Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Schmidt was brought in as Google's CEO in 2001 to provide “adult supervision” for himself and Larry Page, the New York Post reported. Schmidt, 62, plans to remain on as a technical adviser for Alphabet.
Schmidt tweeted that he plans to spend more time working on issues relating to science, technology, and philanthropy. The new role will allow Schmidt a more “hands-on role in developing artificial intelligence for defense," according to the New York Post.
After ten years as CEO and seven as Executive Chairman, I can’t wait to dive into the latest in science, technology… https://t.co/fCpTdAQToC— Eric Schmidt (@Eric Schmidt) 1513894546.0
Schmidt owns about 1.3 percent of Google, which is headquartered in Mountain View, California. He has a net worth of about $13.6 billion, placing him in the 96th spot on Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index. Schmidt was chief executive officer of Google for 10 years, until he relinquished that role in 2011 to co-founder Page.
What are some of his achievements?
As Google’s CEO, Schmidt presided over Google’s initial public offering in 2004.
Other achievements Schmidt presided over include:
- Launching Gmail, Maps and the Chrome browser.
- YouTube's acquisition in 2006.
- Growing Android into the world’s largest mobile operating system.
What about controversy?
Schmidt had a visible and sometimes controversial image. He spoke out on regulatory issues, met with world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland; and regularly attended the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert. In contrast, Google’s co-founders preferred to keep a lower profile, according to Bloomberg.
Schmidt was heavily involved in financing and strategy for Democratic presidential candidates, including Hillary Clinton. At a Clinton campaign party in November 2016, he was spotted wearing a “staff” badge. That's one reason he is less of a policy asset for the Trump administration and Republicans in power, Bloomberg reported.
In this era, Schmidt’s private life may also be seen as a liability. According to the New York Post, Vanity Fair and other publications, he has been romantically involved with several women while remaining married.
He also dealt with internal complaints about gender inequality in the heavily male-dominated tech industry.
What are people saying?
“They’ve been acting like a more mature, long-term thinking company for a while now, and that’s what he was brought in to do,” Bob O’Donnell, chief analyst at Technalysis Research, told Bloomberg. “They’ve got a more mature team in the leadership office, they’ve brought some good names.”
He questioned the timing of the move, however.
“It does raise other questions as to why,” O’Donnell added, “and in this time and era, there have to be other questions.”