SAN FRANCISCO: Eric Schmidt, the former chief executive officer of Google and one of the largest stakeholders in parent company Alphabet Inc, will step down from Alphabet’s board in June.
Schmidt’s departure leaves the technology giant without one of its most recognisable political advocates as it faces rising scrutiny about its size, data collection practices and influence.
Schmidt, 64, ran Google from 2001 to 2011, overseeing some of the company’s most enduring acquisitions and skyrocketing revenue growth. In 2011, after co-founder Larry Page returned as CEO, Schmidt shifted to executive chairman. He also became Google’s de facto ambassador, handling relationships with politicians and pushing the company’s point of view in prickly global fights that Page and his successor, Sundar Pichai, have mostly shunned.
Schmidt is one of three men who control Alphabet’s Class B shares, which have 10 times the voting rights of regular shares. He was the third-largest owner of those shares with 8.6%, according to a regulatory filing on Tuesday. Google co-founders Page and Sergey Brin each own more than 40%.
Diane Greene, a board member since 2012 and the former chief of Google’s cloud-computing unit, will also leave the board, Alphabet said Tuesday in a statement.
Schmidt and Greene agreed to step down during the board’s meeting on April 24, according to a company filing. Schmidt will serve as a technical adviser with a salary of US$1.
Alphabet named Robin L. Washington, chief financial officer of Gilead Sciences Inc, as a director. Washington also serves on the board of Honeywell International Inc and Salesforce.com Inc. She has worked at Gilead, a pharmaceutical firm, since 2014. Alphabet has a variety of efforts in biotechnology and health care, including subsidiaries Verily and Calico.
“Eric has made an extraordinary contribution to Google and Alphabet as CEO, Chairman, and Board member. We are extremely grateful for his guidance and leadership over many years,” John Hennessy, Alphabet’s current board chair, said in the statement.
Schmidt stepped down in December 2017 from his role as chairman with little explanation. He was outspoken backer of Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign for president. A consulting firm backed by Schmidt, Civis Analytics, announced this week it would work with Joe Biden’s Democratic presidential campaign.
Schmidt and Greene will serve on Alphabet’s board until their terms expire June 19. Greene, an enterprise software veteran, ran Google’s cloud division from 2015 until leaving that role in January.
The pair are leaving as the board is under fire for the way it has handled the departure of several former executives. Multiple shareholders have accused the directors of signing off on bonus payments to Andy Rubin, a former Google executive, despite knowledge of credible sexual harassment charges against him. When news of the payouts came out, thousands of Google employees marched out of their offices in protest.