Eric Schmidt steps down from Alphabet

Here's how you know you're a nerd: I was on the phone at 1 AM last night, and glanced at Twitter, noticing that Eric Schmidt tweeted he was leaving Alphabet and hastily explained to my mum I needed to run because some good shit was happening.

Eric Schmidt last night said he's step down as executive chairman of Alphabet and transition to "technical adviser" ‚ÄĒ it's a move that came out of left field, and nobody expected to happen last night.¬†

Theories about why now are thin. First, people have pointed to an inter-office romance scandal that shook the company (paywall article) and never really went away, causing tension almost constantly within the company:

But an examination by The Information found that those interoffice relationships, and others featuring some of the company’s top leaders, have for years been a flashpoint of frustration and anger among Google’s employees. The relationships often violated at least the spirit of a company policy that prohibits superiors from secretly dating subordinates. 

Second, some reports say that Google may have made itself a target by donating heavily to Hillary Clinton's election campaign, with Eric Schmidt going above and beyond that on a personal level to provide support to the campaign, further deepening rifts between the new government and the company.

The Wall Street Journal reported previously that Trump asked Stephen Bannon earlier in the year if Schmidt was¬†‚Äúthe guy that tried to help Hillary win the election‚ÄĚ and that the company faces¬†a massive loss in political clout over the course of the next few years.

Google now finds itself on the wrong foot with a White House that is tentatively interested in regulating the technology industry, and has actively expressed interest in antitrust investigations. Eric Schmidt has not really been involved in the day-to-day at Alphabet in years, but did make key decisions when needed, and made himself a target of these.

Schmidt joined Google in 2001, when just a few hundred people worked there, and became executive chairman almost ten years later, and kept that role when the company was restructured under Alphabet. 

He quite literally tweeted "adult supervision no longer needed" referencing a joke about when he was brought on at the company to help lead it into a real business, rather than just a startup ‚ÄĒ¬†which he did with incredible precision over the years.

Schmidt said of his departure that¬†"Larry, Sergey, Sundar and I all believe that the time is right in Alphabet's evolution for this transition. The Alphabet structure is working well, and Google and the Other Bets are thriving.‚ÄĚ

Google, which drives almost all of Alphabet's revenue, is accelerating into a new phase as it's driven by Sundar Pichai, focusing on hardware, emerging countries and doubling down on Google's existing properties, like YouTube. 

As for Schmidt, he says he'll be focusing on philanthropy and "science/technology issues" in the future.


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