Alphabet Inc. issued an announcement on Thursday confirming a major executive shake-up: Eric Schmidt is out as the company's executive chairman of the board of directors, effective when the company holds its next board meeting in January 2018. At that point, he will transition to a role of "technical advisor" for Alphabet and still serve on its board as a member.
"Larry [Page], Sergey [Brin], Sundar [Pichai], and I all believe that the time is right in Alphabet's evolution for this transition," Schmidt said as part of the announcement. "The Alphabet structure is working well, and Google and the Other Bets are thriving." He noted one possible explanation for the transition: to "expand" his efforts in the worlds of philanthropy and "science and technology issues." (This could, among other things, include more vocal opposition to lobbyists and other firms who deny climate change and denounce net neutrality.)
The announcement includes statements from Alphabet CEO Larry Page and independent board director John Hennessy thanking Schmidt for 17 years of contributions to Google and Alphabet. It also suggests that a "non-executive chairman" will be appointed in 2018.
Before Google's reorganization as a subsidiary of the larger Alphabet Inc., Schmidt joined Google in 2001 as its executive chairman of the board, only to shift to the role of CEO later that year. Ten years later, he returned to the chairman role so that Google co-founder Larry Page could become the company's CEO. Around that time, he specifically took the blame for failing to respond to the looming rise of Facebook as a major social-media and Internet-search rival.
The last time we saw Schmidt make the headlines was in May 2016. That's when he took the stand to testify about Alphabet's dealings with Oracle in a San Francisco federal courtroom—which brought him full-circle in the public sphere from his early-'90s days as CTO of Sun Microsystems. He later became CEO of Novell before taking on a corporate role at a rapidly expanding Google in 2001.
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