Sundar Pichai, the soft-spoken Google chief executive officer known for his Lanvin sneakers and cardigans, has long been the public face of the company. And now, he officially moves up the corporate ladder to become the top executive of both Google and its parent company, Alphabet, the company said Tuesday.
Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are effectively stepping aside, making way for Pichai to ascend into Page’s role as ceo of Alphabet, while retaining his position at Google.
The massive technology empire, once referred to in its entirety as Google, reorganized back in 2015 under the umbrella moniker of Alphabet. The move sought to distinguish Google as an entity that sits apart from other tangent initiatives, including self-driving cars, life sciences, biotech, smart cities, urban infrastructure and an Internet access project that offers rural coverage via balloons.
The Google search engine, as well as related operations — including Android, Wear OS, smart speakers and other efforts — comprise the company’s core business. When the company restructured in 2015, Pichai, once a search bar engineer that drove the Chrome browser, rose through the ranks to become Google’s ceo.
In a letter to investors, Page and Brin took care in how they characterized the change, describing it as a choice to “simplify our management structure.”
The pair wrote, “We’ve never been ones to hold on to management roles when we think there’s a better way to run the company. And Alphabet and Google no longer need two ceo’s and a president.” The cofounders will continue as members of Alphabet’s board and they still have controlling voting shares in the parent company.
Pichai’s expanded leadership comes at a fraught time for the embattled organization. Google and Alphabet have been facing mounting concerns across federal and state antitrust probes. Meanwhile internally, the organization faces growing unrest from its own employees over a number of controversial decisions — including deals with the Pentagon for its artificial intelligence technology, developmental work on projects in China and how the company deals with sexual assault and related complaints. After firing four employees following a Google walkout, the company drew accusations of union busting.
Pichai will now face all of those scenarios alone. But at least some investors are optimistic about his ability to handle the pressure. At press time, Alphabet shares were up 0.46 percent in after-hours trading.