SAN FRANCISCO — It’s the end of an era: Larry Page is stepping down as head of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, and Sundar Pichai will take over as CEO of both, the internet giant said in a surprise announcement Tuesday.
Page and Sergey Brin, who co-founded Google more than two decades ago, will continue as members of Alphabet’s board of directors. They are the company’s two largest individual shareholders.
The news about one of the world’s most powerful technology companies comes as Google has been rocked by criticism from Washington lawmakers and President Trump, internal scandals and unrest within its own ranks.
Saying it’s a “natural time to simplify our management structure,” Page and Brin said Google and its parent company no longer need “two CEOs and a president.”
“We’ve never been ones to hold on to management roles when we think there’s a better way to run the company,” they wrote in a letter announcing their decision.
Pichai, who joined Google in 2004, became CEO of Google in 2015 when Google created a new publicly traded company called Alphabet to house all of its disparate businesses at a time when investors were rattled by Google’s spending on its “moonshots,” experimental projects such as driverless cars and delivering Internet access from high-altitude balloons.
In the sweeping overhaul of the company, Page became CEO of Alphabet, Brin became president and Eric Schmidt became executive chairman. Schmidt stepped down in January 2017.
Page and Brin, with an assist from Schmidt, took Google public in 2004, the springboard that transformed Google’s lucrative search advertising business into one of the world’s largest companies with its fingers in everything from YouTube to smart devices.
Alphabet shares closed at $1,294.74 Tuesday and rose less than 1% in after-hours trading after the news broke. The stock i’s up about 24% this year.
This story will be updated.