Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin relinquish control of Alphabet to CEO Sundar Pichai

Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin relinquish control of Alphabet to CEO Sundar Pichai

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who have mostly stayed out of the spotlight since restructuring their company four years ago, are relinquishing control of parent company Alphabet to current Google CEO Sundar Pichai, the duo announced today in a joint press release. The two men will remain employees of Alphabet and retain their seats on the board, but they will no longer oversee the company’s sprawling, almost trillion-dollar empire they created while at Stanford University more than 20 years ago.

“With Alphabet now well-established, and Google and the Other Bets operating effectively as independent companies, it’s the natural time to simplify our management structure. 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 CEOs and a President. Going forward, Sundar will be the CEO of both Google and Alphabet,” Page and Brin wrote.

“He will be the executive responsible and accountable for leading Google, and managing Alphabet’s investment in our portfolio of Other Bets. We are deeply committed to Google and Alphabet for the long term, and will remain actively involved as Board members, shareholders and co-founders. In addition, we plan to continue talking with Sundar regularly, especially on topics we’re passionate about.”

The news, while a shocking development for the course of Google’s future, is not surprising to those who have followed Page and Brin’s careers since 2015. The duo have rarely made public appearances, spoken on investor calls, or shown their face at product launches or the company’s annual I/O developer conference. Brin, who once sky dived into I/O wearing a prototype pair of the now-defunct Google Glass, was often a showy futurism-loving face of the company’s more experimental efforts, while Page — the acting CEO of Google until Pichai took over — was the overall executive face. Both effectively disappeared from public view, however, after the company was restructured.

The creation of Alphabet was controversial in 2015, marking an unprecedented new corporate structure for Silicon Valley at a time when the tech giants were amassing huge power and consolidating industries. Alphabet was designed to split Google into its main business, which includes its search engine and nearly a dozen other massive products, and the other disparate arms of the company, like its X lab (formerly the Moonshot factory Google X) and now its self-driving unit Waymo. But the creation of Alphabet also gave Page and Brin carte blanche to fade from the limelight and let Pichai take the reins.