Eric Schmidt to step down as executive chair of Alphabet

22 Dec 2017

Outgoing Alphabet chair Eric Schmidt. Image: Frederic Legrand – COMEO/Shutterstock

Visionary leader brought Google from tiny start-up to world’s biggest internet company.

Eric Schmidt is stepping down as executive chair at Alphabet after 17 years, in which he brought it from start-up to global internet giant.

Schmidt will remain on Alphabet’s board and will advise leadership on scientific and technological matters.

‘Ireland is a great place to run our business. We have access to creative, young people who see Dublin as a desirable place to work’

Schmidt joined Google in 2001 as CEO to help its young founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, build their company.

In 2011, Schmidt became chair of Google and then continued in the role when Alphabet was formed to become a parent company to Google.

“Since 2001, Eric has provided us with business and engineering expertise, and a clear vision about the future of technology,” said Page, CEO of Alphabet.

“Continuing his 17 years of service to the company, he’ll now be helping us as a technical adviser on science and technology issues. I’m incredibly excited about the progress our companies are making, and about the strong leaders who are driving that innovation.”

The making of a tech titan

Schmidt, who was interviewed by on a couple of occasions, is the 119th richest person in the world and has an estimated wealth of more than $11bn.

While at Berkeley, he designed and implemented a campus network called Berknet in 1979, more than a decade before the internet as we know it today was forged.

He began his career as an intern at Bell Labs, rewriting Lex to generate lexical analysers for the Unix operating system.

His real break in business came when he joined Sun Microsystems, where he rose through the ranks to become president of Sun Technology Enterprises.

After a number of years as CEO of Novell, Schmidt was interviewed by the founders of Google and, greatly impressed, they hired him as CEO in charge of Google’s daily operations.

What followed was a rapid expansion of Google into the internet giant it is today, which included masterminding the company’s IPO and pushing strategic moves, such as the development of the Android mobile operating system, which sits on more than 80pc of the world’s smartphones today.

It was during Schmidt’s leadership that Google came to Dublin in 2002 with the intention of creating 200 jobs.

Today, Google is Dublin’s largest private-sector employer, with close to 6,000 people working directly and indirectly for the company.

“Our decision is nothing to do with the Irish economy, but everything to do with the Irish workforce,” Schmidt told during an interview in 2011.

“Ireland is a great place to run our business. We have access to creative, young people who see Dublin as a desirable place to work. People are coming to Ireland from other parts of Europe.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years