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Don't Envy the New Alphabet CEO His Promotion

Sundar Pichai will have his work cut out for him—and will likely face power struggles too
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 4, 2019 3:48 PM CST

(Newser) – With the announcement that Google's co-founders are stepping down as the CEO and president of the tech giant's parent company, Alphabet, current Google CEO Sundar Pichai got a big promotion: He'll now be the Alphabet CEO. That's great news for the 47-year-old, right? Well, maybe not. A few reactions:

  • At CNBC, Steve Kovach calls the Alphabet CEO gig "the worst job in Silicon Valley." He notes that Google is facing crises including employee protests (having to do with how the company handles sexual harassment claims and labor activity, controversial executive hires, and more), allegations of inappropriate executive-employee relationships, and antitrust investigations that will almost certainly result in action taken against the company. YouTube is facing controversies of its own, including allegations that it enables pedophiles and conspiracy theorists, and then there's the fact that none of Alphabet's non-Google products have taken off, which could put Pichai in the unenviable position of having to decide whether to shelve Larry Page and Sergey Brin's money-losing passion projects—while Page and Brin remain on the board. Read his full piece, which includes praise for Pichai, here, or read on for more reactions.

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  • At the Verge, Dieter Bohn notes that Brin and Page "retain special, company-controlling shares of stock. It gives them leverage over not just Pichai but also the board itself." As a result, "Pichai is in charge, but he doesn’t have ultimate power. Page and Brin are not in charge, but they control the company. It’s a situation as convoluted as the corporate structure of Alphabet itself." He says Pichai has already spent a lot of his time since becoming the CEO of Google cleaning up messes from its previous culture, and has done a good job of giving the company much-needed direction, so maybe "he can do the same product cleanup work for the Alphabet companies"—but only "if Page and Brin will let him." Read his full piece here.
  • At Bloomberg, Tom Metcalf notes that taking the founders away from the helm has proved to be a good thing financially for other tech giants like Apple and Microsoft, and the same could turn out to be true here—Alphabet's shares rose enough following the announcement to add about $1 billion each to Brin's and Page's net worths. But he notes that unlike others who took the helm of big Silicon Valley companies, nearly all of Pinchai's shares have already vested, and the "Alphabet board will likely move to rectify this discrepancy." Read his full piece here.
  • Kara Swisher's take, via Twitter: "Some context as actually not as big a deal as it seems. 1. @sundarpichai has had purview over the big dogs of the company @Google and @YouTube for a while and really that is all that matters. 2. Larry and Sergey have essentially gone AWOL anyway as their myriad of other interests have diverged from running the business that allowed them to have a myriad of interests."
  • At the Washington Post, Cat Zakrzewski makes a similar point: "Pichai has been acting like Alphabet’s top leader in Washington for more than a year," she writes. "He’s already been on the front lines and weathering the techlash in Washington in the absence of Page," who has been "largely missing in action" during various DC hearings. Read her full piece here.
  • For more reading, Business Insider has a list of five big changes Pichai could make.
(Read more Google stories.)

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