Why Chairman of Alphabet, One of Richest Tech Companies, Suddenly Resign?
With little warning–and three days before Christmas–no less, Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google’s parent, Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) called it quits. And Alphabet is no “mom-and-pop” shop; it’s one of the richest corporations in the world. In fact, it’s one of the few companies with a seat at the board of the “World Domination Club.”
Being its CEO is not merely a job, it’s a mission with an all-but-guaranteed future as a true master of the universe, and not just in the metaphorical sense. However, Schmidt’s sudden departure just before Christmas may not be coincidental. Perhaps the timing was intended to coincide with a period of the year most Americans–or most other people in the world who follow the business headlines–are preoccupied with choosing the right gift wrapping paper or balls for the well-lit and decorated pine tree branches in their homes, rather than the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
The more curious aspect, perhaps, is that Schmidt has (apparently) chosen to remain in the Alphabet family. He will step down in January as Chairman, yet will continue to serve as “technical advisor for science and technology.” (Source: “Eric Schmidt is stepping aside as Alphabet’s chairman,” CNN, December 21, 2017.)
Is Google Trying to Suppress the Story with Timing?
The basic sources of suspicion that Alphabet–or Google, if you prefer–is trying to suppress this story are the timing, as noted, and the fact that Schmidt is staying on. As a refresher, Schmidt joined Google around 2000 to serve as the straight man to the Larry Page-Sergey Brin dynamic duo. The original Google founders were seen as too valuable scientifically to waste their efforts on the mundane task of running an actual business.
That made sense. It also makes sense that he pursue the more scientific or technical side of the business, given he has no formal business training. Rather, he has degrees in electronic engineering and informatics. True, he’s 62 years old; that’s almost retirement age. But why retire now? It will leave the company having to appoint a new executive chairman in the wake of his sudden departure. The company said that Schmidt will now be able to help advising on “scientific and technological” matters. But why now? Wasn’t he doing that before? It seems odd. (Source: Ibid.)
The reasons behind the sudden change at the helm of Alphabet may have much more to do with politics than cybernetics. Schmidt was a major Hillary Clinton campaign supporter, which, along with the rising backlash against Silicon Valley dominance, may no longer benefit Alphabet’s image. (Source: “Silicon Valley mystery: Why the ‘time is right’ for Eric Schmidt to leave as Alphabet chairman,” Journal Sentinel, Dec.26, 2017.)
What’s the Backstory on Schmidt and Google?
The Clinton links are more significant than they first appear, especially because Schmidt has been relegated to a different role rather than being outright fired. President Donald Trump considers Schmidt as one of the most influential people to have openly supported and enabled Hillary Clinton’s campaign against him. Schmidt allegedly said that President Trump would do “evil things” in Washington. Then there are more salacious allegations as well, that in a post-Harvey Weinstein America don’t quite fit the politically correct image Google and Alphabet have cultivated. Yet Schmidt’s resignation, whether forced or voluntary, is not the first bit of controversy surrounding Google in 2017. (Source: Ibid.)
In 2017, concerns that Google exercises heavy pressure on certain stakeholders and ideas or groups it doesn’t like–like obscuring posts from Russia Today or Sputnik, for example–came to the fore. Google also spends millions in political lobbying. (Source: “Why is Google spending record sums on lobbying Washington?,” The Guardian, July 30, 2017.)
No less a Washington and Wall Street shill than The New York Times suggested that a scholar, Barry Lynn, who headed an initiative called Open Markets on the Google-funded New America Foundation, was essentially fired. All he did was post a comment praising the European Union’s antitrust fines against Google on the New America web site. (Source: “Google Critic Ousted From Think Tank Funded by the Tech Giant,” The New York Times, August 30, 2017.)
Therefore, given also the new climate in Europe, which is determined to get more taxes out of the huge profit-making machines from Silicon Valley operating in the EU, the Alphabet board may be trying to regain a spot in the “good books” after Schmidt became too much of a hot potato for a variety of reasons. It’s not that Google bosses are saints; they’re simply doing good business. Time will tell is this simple move works, because chances are that if the company doesn’t stay away from politics, rather than pretend to stay away, it will pay the same price politicians do when they fall out of favor.