Former Google CEO and technical advisor at Google parent company Alphabet, Eric Schmidt, has now reportedly left the company entirely. That’s according to a recent CNET report citing unnamed parties said to be familiar with the matter.
Mr. Schmidt reportedly left the company back in February. Representatives for the ex-executive and Google are not commenting on the departure.
The former executive had been serving in an advisory role on science and technology issues since 2018. Prior to taking on that position, Mr. Schmidt had spent approximately seven years as executive chairman of Google and Alphabet. The departure follows a decision in 2019 to hand Google over to Sunder Pichai, who took the role of CEO at Google and Alphabet.
Why is Eric Schmidt leaving Alphabet now?
When Sundar Pichai took the reins at Google and Alphabet, that was marked by prior leaders and cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin stepping down from that role. In January, the company’s legal chief of fourteen years, David Drummond, also retired.
In each case, the decision appears to have been made amid a wide assortment of controversies. For instance, the company has faced increasing scrutiny over its handling of sexual assault accusations. In January of last year, Alphabet was sued over that same issue.
Eric Schmidt, conversely, has been a key player in Google’s rise to success in the market as a search giant. The executive announced that he was stepping down as executive chairman and stopped working in an ‘operational’ capacity three years ago. But Mr. Schmidt, who acted as CEO until 2011, had been working at Google for 19 years and isn’t leaving without any controversy either.
For Mr. Schmidt, the controversy centers more squarely around his role in other projects. Most prominently, that’s his work with advisory groups and commissions related to military applications of technology. For example, Mr. Schmidt chairs the Defense Innovation Board and the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. The former is focused on bringing new tech to the Pentagon while the latter advises Congress on AI — specifically for defense.
More recently, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo revealed the ex-Google worker would act as the chair of a new commission. That would explicitly be responsible for updating the state’s technological infrastructure and practice. Specifically, that’s during and after the coronavirus pandemic across technologies related to telehealth, broadband, and remote learning.
But are those reasons for Mr. Schmidt to leave the company?
The earlier projects involving Mr. Schmidt are directly related to military applications that Google has already faced controversy for involving itself in. The project on New York’s technological needs is often cited as an area of concern too, however. Especially since Google has its own products and services in those segments of the market. So the concerns raised are chiefly centered on the possibility of conflicts of interest.
The decision to step down entirely has not been revealed publicly and Google doesn’t appear to have any interest in discussing the matter. So it isn’t entirely possible to ascertain the exact reasons why Eric Schmidt has left Google. But it does seem likely that this is part of a larger action being taken by Google and Alphabet to separate themselves from controversy.