His importance to the Internet and website management can hardly be overstated. Now, Eric Schmidt, who turned Google into the behemoth it is today, is stepping back as executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent.
Though Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Schmidt gets much of the credit for turning the company into the search and advertising giant that remade the Internet. He ran the company as CEO and was then involved as executive chairman when Page took over as CEO.
As executive chairman, Schmidt helped oversee the creation of Alphabet, a holding company that includes Google. Page is CEO of Alphabet now, and Sundar Pichai is CEO of Google.
“Larry, Sergey, Sundar and I all believe that the time is right in Alphabet’s evolution for this transition,” Schmidt said in a statement. “The Alphabet structure is working well, and Google and the Other Bets are thriving. 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.”
ERIC SCHMIDT WOUND up at Google by compromise. In 1998, cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin had made a promise to the two venture-capital firms that funded them—they would hire an experienced CEO to manage the company once it began to take off. But two years later they were hedging, insisting they could scale Google to a global power by themselves. VC John Doerr convinced them to keep interviewing potential leaders. None clicked until they met Schmidt, who not only had been a skilled executive at Sun Microsystems and CEO of Novell but was a respected computer scientist. Best of all, he’d been to Burning Man!
The rest is history. In 2001, Schmidt became Google’s CEO, keeping the job for a decade of incredible growth and mindboggling impact. He then remained a key part of leadership as its executive chair, even as the corporation restructured itself in 2015 to a holding company named Alphabet, with Google its largest and most profitable division. As of Thursday night, that’s history too—Alphabet announced that Schmidt, 62, will step down from the chair post next month, 17 years older and almost $14 billion richer than when he joined the firm. He will retain a board seat and employee status as a “technical consultant.” Google says his compensation ($1.25 million, plus bonuses as of 2016) will remain unchanged.
When it comes to the website management industry, few individuals have had as big an impact as Schmidt.