Hired to bring some adult supervision to Google in 2001, Eric Schmidt has reportedly left its parent company after a nearly 20-year run. That said, his role at the company has declined significantly in recent years.
The report comes from CNET, which isn’t known for breaking news like this, and the sourcing is unclear: The article originally cited a single source, but even that mention has been removed. So all we can really do is remind everyone what role Schmidt did playing in taking Google—and then Alphabet, after the firm’s ill-advised 2015 corporate restructuring—to the top of the technology world.
Schmidt previously worked at Sun Microsystems for almost 15 years, where he eventually became president of Sun Technology Enterprises. He then joined Novell as CEO and chairman in 1997 where, as Wikipedia puts it, he “presided over a period of decline” at Novell the company thanks to the rise of the Internet, which used TCP/IP and not Novell’s IPX networking protocol. He was pushed out of Novell when Cambridge Technology Partners purchased the remains of the firm in 2001.
Impressed by this success, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin interviewed Schmidt after being told by the venture capitalists backing Google expansion at the time that neither of them was qualified to actually run a technology giant. So Schmidt joined Google as its chairman in March 2001 and became CEO of the search giant that August. He was never paid a lot by Silicon Valley executive standards, but he became a billionaire many times over thanks to Google’s surging stock price during this time.
Schmidt stepped down as CEO in 2011, but he had been mentoring Page and Brin since the beginning, and the firm’s decisions were all a three-way debate during his tenure. He became an advisor to the cofounders and Page became CEO a few months later. Google restructured into Alphabet in October 2015, And Schmidt stepped down from his advisory role in 2017.
Since then, Schmidt had been on the books as a technical adviser to Alphabet. But if the CNET report is correct, even that relationship has now ended. He was only earning a $1 annual salary as a technical advisor, so I assume Alphabet will use that savings to fund more communications services.