Alphabet, the parent company of Google, announced Thursday afternoon that Eric Schmidt, who has played an outsized role in Google’s transformation from grad school science project to one of the most powerful companies in the world, will be stepping back from his executive chairman role.
Schmidt will remain on Alphabet’s board and in January will become a “technical advisor” to a group of folks that have some pretty strong tech experience. He joined Google in 2001 as CEO at the behest of the company’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, with the goal of providing a little “adult supervision” to the young founders, as they joked in a 2001 interview with Charlie Rose after Schmidt’s arrival.
Page took over as CEO in 2011, with Schmidt becoming the chairman of Google’s board of directors. He then became executive chairman of Alphabet in 2015 when Google decided to become just one of many businesses in Page and Brin’s toybox.
Schmidt said in a statement that he planned to spend more time “on science and technology issues, and philanthropy,” which is more or less what he’s been doing anyway since the creation of Alphabet. Alphabet expects the board to pick an independent chairman to replace Schmidt.
It’s long been rumored that Schmidt has political aspirations, although those rumors were more prevalent in a very different kind of political climate. In June, he told a group of attendees at a tech conference in Paris that “I’ve come to believe that science and critical thinking really do matter. Even more so now in the political world that we have in the United States and in other areas of the world.”