UPDATED 20:08 EDT / DECEMBER 21 2017


Eric Schmidt to step down as Alphabet executive chairman in January

Alphabet Inc. Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt will be a taking a more backseat role going forward as the company announced that he would step down in January.

Schmidt, who previously served as Google LLC chief executive officer from 2001 to 2011 before taking the role of executive chairman first at Google and then its successor company Alphabet, will remain on the company’s board. He also will take a role as a “technical adviser.”

“Since 2001, Eric has provided us with business and engineering expertise and a clear vision about the future of technology,” Alphabet CEO Larry Page said in a statement. “Continuing his 17 years of service to the company, he’ll now be helping us as a technical advisor on science and technology issues.”

As co-founders Page and Sergey Brin gradually stepped back from the public eye over the years, Schmidt served as the public face of company, in recent years mostly on the policy front. However, since he was an ally of former President Barack Obama and support candidate Hillary Clinton, his influence in Washington is seen as having waned in the Trump era.

At times, Schmidt has been controversial. In 2009, he made comments about Google’s impact on privacy that rankled some, telling CNBC, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” His personal life also has drawn attention. According to some accounts, the married Schmidt has brought girlfriends to corporate events, and an article in The Information in late November chronicled a relationship he had with a Google publicist several years ago.

Although not specifically spelled out, CNBC suggested that Schmidt is likely to advise the company’s urban development arm, Sidewalk Labs, its deep learning efforts and its healthcare spin-offs Verily and Calico.

Schmidt said that Alphabet’s executive team believed that “the time is right in Alphabet’s evolution for this transition” because “the Alphabet structure is working well, and Google and the Other Bets are thriving.” On his plans moving forward, Schmidt added that “in recent years, I’ve been spending a lot of my time on science and technology issues and philanthropy, and I plan to expand that work.”

Schmidt’s philanthropy work includes the Schmidt Family Foundation, established in 2006 to address issues pertaining to sustainability and the responsible use of natural resources. The foundation funds, often in collaboration with other organizations, original research in science, energy and biosphere sustainability. Last year, Forbes said Schmidt was the 119th-richest person in the world, worth an estimated $11.1 billion.

No indication was given by Alphabet as to who may replace Schmidt, but the company said it plans to appoint a nonexecutive chairperson at its next board meeting in January.

Photo: TechCrunch/Flickr

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