By Rob Copeland
Google's co-founders stepped down from their active management roles at the internet giant, surrendering further control at a potential inflection point for the company.
Billionaires Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who had been chief executive and president, respectfully, of Google parent Alphabet Inc., said they would hand control immediately to Sundar Pichai, Google's existing CEO.
Messrs. Page and Brin founded Google in 1998, and built it from a novel search engine into a global conglomerate that controls how most of the world interacts with the internet. They also created an often-restless and freewheeling corporate culture that pushed the company into far-flung ventures, including driverless cars and high-altitude balloons, but of late has been challenged to match prior growth.
Although still closely identified with the company, the co-founders have been a dwindling visible presence inside the Mountain View, Calif., campus for years, current and former employees say.
Google faces an unusually fierce collection of threats this year. Competitors like Amazon.com Inc. are chipping at its online-advertising business, while state and federal regulators are beginning broad investigations of purported anticompetitive behavior. Google has pledged to cooperate with the inquiries.
"While it has been a tremendous privilege to be deeply involved in the day-to-day management of the company for so long, we believe it's time to assume the role of proud parents," Messrs. Page and Brin wrote in the letter. "We plan to continue talking with Sundar regularly, especially on topics we're passionate about."
The duo are hardly giving up their influence. They remain on Alphabet's board and together control a majority of voting power over company decisions under Alphabet's dual-class share structure.
Alphabet is valued at almost $900 billion. Shares are up roughly 24% this year, lagging behind the broader technology market.
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