New details have emerged in the resignation of Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin as CEO and president, respectively, at parent-company Alphabet, shedding light on their gradual but inexorable slide away from management.
Page, who stepped down on Tuesday, has not spoken publicly since his brief remarks at an awkward summit of tech CEOs at Trump Tower in December 2016, a month after the presidential election.
‘Really glad to be here,’ Page, now 46, said at the event in a wispy voice, which was difficult to hear over the clacking of camera shutters. Page also stated, incorrectly, that Google was the youngest company represented in the room. (PayPal was founded two months later, in December 1998.)
For years, Page struggled with a rare and mysterious vocal chord paralysis that made it difficult for him to speak at times, a condition which he revealed in a 2013 blog post that has since been deleted. In private meetings, he sometimes used an electronic speaker to amplify his strained voice, unnamed executives told the New York Times.
It’s unclear whether these health issues persisted, and Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment from DailyMail.com. What is known is that Page has has been noticeably absent from product launches and earnings calls since 2013 and has not done a press event since 2015.
Larry Page has not spoken publicly since this December 2016 meeting at Trump Tower. On Tuesday, he stepped down as CEO of Google’s parent company, Alphabet
Sitting three seats to the left of Trump, Page said he was ‘really glad to be here’ at the December 2016 summit for tech CEOs
His most glaring absence came at a September 2018 Senate hearing where he declined to appear when called to testify — leaving an empty chair with his nametag as the Twitter CEO and Facebook CFO faced a public grilling.
In the 1990s, Page and Brin created the prototype for Google’s internet search algorithm as a class project while they were graduate students at Stanford University.
They initially tried to sell the software, but found no interested buyers. It was only reluctantly that they founded their own company to try to monetize the algorithm, say those who knew them at the time.
Today, Page and Brin are worth more than $50 billion apiece. Each became $1 billion richer on Wednesday alone, as Alphabet stock increased more than 2% upon the news that Google CEO Sundar Pichai would take over their executive roles at Alphabet, while also retaining his current position.
Page and Brin still hold a majority of voting shares of Alphabet, and through their control of the board, Pichai still serves at their pleasure.
Page’s most glaring absence came at a September 2018 Senate hearing where he declined to appear when called to testify — leaving an empty chair with this nametag before it
Page (right) and Brin (left) are seen in 2004, the year Google went public. The two seem to have gradually lost interest in management, pursuing esoteric scientific projects
Sergey Brin, Larry Page,and Eric Schmidt are seen at a news conference in 2010. Schmidt took over as Google CEO in 2001, but Page returned to the role in 2011
According to many accounts, however, the founders had grown increasingly weary of corporate management over the years, and focused more and more on side projects.
Page was the founding CEO, but in 2001 he and Brin brought in experienced executive Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of software company Novell, to lead Google through its public offering and massive growth.
In 2011, Page resumed the mantle of Google CEO, but nearly immediately became frustrated with day-to-day corporate tasks, and disillusioned with ‘entitled’ engineers, sources told the Times.
Since then, his disillusionment has likely only grown, following a steady procession of angry employee protests.
Last month, Google workers revolted after several employees were fired for violating company policies.
Angry employees said the firings were in retaliation for the fired workers’ activism, including spearheading demands that Google sever its contracts to provide services to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
A Google employee holds a sign during a “women’s walkout” at their headquarters in protest over the company’s sexual harassment policies in November 2018
Another employee protest is seen last month, when angry workers protested the firing of four employees who had spearheaded workplace activism on a variety of issues
If followed Google employee walkouts and protests over the company’s work on artificial intelligence for the military under Project Maven, its sexual harassment policies, and other issues.
As the demands on Google executives increasingly became focused on regulatory, legal, and policy issues, Page reportedly grew less interested in the CEO job.
‘It’s an impossible job now,’ Shane Greenstein, a professor at Harvard Business School who has studied Google and its founders, told the Times.
Page and Brin are engineers at heart, and the issues facing the company ‘are not merely technical problems or scientific problems,’ he said. The problems ‘are very much corporate lawyerly types of policy issues, for which historically they have not been enthusiastic.’
At one point, Brin moved his desk to Google X, the company’s moonshot lab that tinkered with wild projects such as teleportation and immortality.
Some of those projects, such as self-driving cars, have shown real-world promise, and over time the lab evolved into a stable of ventures under the umbrella of Google’s parent company, Alphabet.
In October 2014, Page stepped down as CEO of Google to become chief executive at Alphabet, handing day-to-day management of Google to Pichai.
Page is seen at one of his last public press events, in November 2015. He has been noticeably absent from product launches and earnings calls since 2013
Since then, he has gradually faded from public view. While Brin is often spotted wearing Crocs and zipping around the Google campus on a Segway, Page has become increasingly mysterious and elusive.
After stepping down as Alphabet CEO on Tuesday, Page seems less likely than ever to make a public appearance — although Senator Elizabeth Warren, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, says she will still demand his presence before Congress.
More likely, Page will disappear into the privacy afforded by his vast wealth, including an estate at a secret location in California and and 200-foot super-yacht.
It has led some observers, such as The Verge’s technology journalist Casey Newton, to compare Page to the comic book character Dr. Manhattan, a scientist who is transformed into a godlike titan in an accident.
‘Eventually Dr. Manhattan grows to be so powerful that he loses all interest in the affairs of ordinary humans, and goes to live by himself on Mars,’ Newton writes.
‘People call a hotline and leave him voicemails begging for his intervention in their affairs, and he ignores them all. His time among mortals is simply done.’
Larry Page’s full 2013 blog post about vocal cord paralysis
About 14 years ago, I got a bad cold, and my voice became hoarse. At the time I didn’t think much about it. But my voice never fully recovered. So I went to a doctor and was diagnosed with left vocal cord paralysis. This is a nerve problem that causes your left vocal cord to not move properly. Despite extensive examination, the doctors never identified a cause — though there was speculation of virus-based damage from my cold. It is quite common in cases like these that a definitive cause is not found.
While this condition never really affected me — other than having a slightly weaker voice than normal which some people think sounded a little funny — it naturally raised questions in my mind about my second vocal cord. But I was told that sequential paralysis of one vocal cord following another is extremely rare.
Fast forward to last summer, when the same pattern repeated itself — a cold followed by a hoarse voice. Once again things didn’t fully improve, so I went in for a check-up and was told that my second vocal cord now had limited movement as well. Again, after a thorough examination, the doctors weren’t able to identify a cause.
Thankfully, after some initial recovery I’m fully able to do all I need to at home and at work, though my voice is softer than before. And giving long monologues is more tedious for me and probably the audience. But overall over the last year there has been some improvement with people telling me they think I sound better. Vocal cord nerve issues can also affect your breathing, so my ability to exercise at peak aerobic capacity is somewhat reduced. That said, my friends still think I have way more stamina than them when we go kitesurfing! And Sergey says I’m probably a better CEO because I choose my words more carefully. So surprisingly, overall I am feeling very lucky.
Interestingly, while the nerves for your vocal cords take quite different routes through your body, they both pass your thyroid. So in searching for a cause for both nerves that was an obvious place to look. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis in 2003. This is a fairly common benign inflammatory condition of the thyroid which causes me no problems. It is unclear if this is a factor in the vocal cord condition, or whether both conditions were triggered by a virus.
In this journey I have learned a lot more about voice issues. Though my condition seems to be very rare, there are a significant number of people who develop issues with one vocal nerve. In seeing different specialists, I met one doctor — Dr. Steven Zeitels from the Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital Voice Center — who is really excited about the potential to improve vocal cord nerve function. So I’ve arranged to fund a significant research program through the Voice Health Institute, which he will lead. Thanks a bunch to my amazing wife Lucy, for her companionship through this journey and for helping oversee this project and get it off the ground. Also, thanks to the many people who have helped with advice and information many of whom I have not had a chance to thank yet.
Finally, we’ve put together a patient survey to gather information about other people with similar conditions. As it’s fairly rare, there’s little data available today — and the team hopes that with more information they can make faster progress. If you have similar symptoms you can fill it out here: voicehealth.org/ip