On Thursday, Alphabet Inc. announced that its executive chairman Eric Schmidt will step down from his position in January. This will bring an end to his 17-year-run during which he played a very important role in transforming Google from a promising startup into a world renowned technology powerhouse. The company stated that he would continue serving on the board of directors and would also serve as an adviser for dealing with science and technical issues. Schmidt also made a personal statement in which he said that it was the right time for this transition as Alphabet continues to evolve.
Larry Page, the chief executive, said in a statement that they were excited at the innovations the companies were making as well as the leaders who are heading that innovation. The co-founders of Google, Sergey Brin and Larry Page recruited Schmidt to work for the company. From 2001 to 2011, he served as the chief executive of the company and was jokingly referred to be the ‘adult supervision’ by the founders. From 2011, Schmidt took up the mantle of the executive chairman and traveled the world routinely for touting the accomplishments made by Google. He also spoke about the landscape of the tech industry and negotiated with the government regarding regulatory issues.
An employee for Google from 2004 to 2014, Joe Beda is now the chief technology officer at Heptio, a Seattle startup. He said that Schmidt helped in making Google the powerhouse it is today and did so without taking away the uniqueness of what it was from the early days. Taking Google public in 2004 is also one of Schmidt’s accomplishments. Other than that, he also shepherded some vital product initiatives such as that of the Android mobile operating system and he also oversaw the huge corporate restructuring that took place in 2015 and made Google a business unit of Alphabet Inc.
Another Google employee and now CEO of a startup in San Francisco called Wizeline, Bismarck Lepe worked from 2003 to 2007. According to him, developing technology for the company was the job of Page and Brin whereas it was Schmidt who had to work out how the products could be scaled on a global level. He added that Schmidt was more than up for the job because he was quite technical and smart. Nonetheless, his tenure had its own share of problems. In 2011, tech companies such as Google and Apple had to deal with a class action lawsuit.
It was alleged that executives including the late CEO of Apple Steve Jobs and Schmidt had conspired to keep salaries down by not hiring employees of one another. In 2015, the companies settled the suit for a cost of $415 million. Another lawsuit has also been filed against the company that alleges Google pays women less than their male counterparts. Antitrust actions have also been launched against it in Europe, but Schmidt did an excellent job at convincing the US Federal Trade Commission to not do the same in the United States.