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Analysts warn new boss of Google owner Alphabet takes reins as tech giant faces an unprecedented 'minefield' of threats

This Is Money logo This Is Money 04/12/2019 Matt Oliver For The Daily Mail

The new boss of Google owner Alphabet takes the reins as the tech giant faces an unprecedented 'minefield' of threats, analysts warned last night.

Sundar Pichai has been made chief executive of Alphabet after founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, both 46, announced they were stepping back from front-line roles.

Pichai joined Google in 2004 and became chief executive in 2015, but still answered to Page and Brin, who were chief executive and president of parent company Alphabet respectively.

Sundar Pichai et al. posing for the camera: 'Minefield': Sundar Pichai (pictured with his wife Anjali) joined Google in 2004 © Provided by This Is Money 'Minefield': Sundar Pichai (pictured with his wife Anjali) joined Google in 2004

The 47-year-old, who grew up in India without a telephone or TV, will be firefighting challenges that threaten Google's dominance.

Alphabet's vast empire includes internet search and advertising business Google, which provides 99 per cent of revenues, and start-ups working on driverless cars, anti-ageing technology, drones and artificial intelligence. But analysts say Google is 'under siege' after a string of controversies.

On both sides of the Atlantic it faces competition investigations, regulatory probes over how it handles people's data and staff revolts over issues such as sexual harassment and government contracts. It is also facing demands to pay more tax, in countries including the UK and France.

Pichai has already had a taste of the so-called 'techlash' in Washington, where lawmakers recently hauled him over the coals over a range of concerns. Donald Trump even tweeted he is 'watching Google very closely!'

Richard Kramer, founder of London-based Arete Research, said: 'Sundar Pichai has got to tiptoe through a minefield of regulatory investigations. Alphabet has terrific growth opportunities. But in terms of addressing large markets via mergers and acquisitions, that certainly is not on the table when it is under the regulatory microscope.'

Joanne Lipman, of the Institute For Advanced Study in the US, said: 'This is a company that is under siege internally and externally. There are dozens of investigations in the US and abroad into issues like anti-trust but also into potential labour violations and how they've handled sexual harassment cases.'

Larry Page, Sergey Brin posing for the camera: In the money: Google was founded in a garage in California in 1998 by PhD students Larry Page (pictured left) and Sergey Brin (right) © Provided by This Is Money In the money: Google was founded in a garage in California in 1998 by PhD students Larry Page (pictured left) and Sergey Brin (right)


Google was founded in a garage in California in 1998 by PhD students Larry Page (pictured left) and Sergey Brin (right).

It started out as a simple search engine, but has since ballooned into an empire worth almost £700 billion, all held through Alphabet. Its mobile phone operating system, Android, is the most-used in the world, and Chrome, its internet browser, is also the most popular.

That has helped Page and Brin amass huge fortunes of £46 billion and £44 billion respectively.

Sundar Pichai has been chief executive of Google, the biggest division by far, since an overhaul in 2015, and has now succeeded Page as boss of Alphabet.

She said Page and Brin had been 'absent' from the public eye in recent years despite the turmoil. When Page was called to face US senators alongside the bosses of Facebook and Twitter last year, he failed to show up.

'When the leadership is absentee your culture can go off the rails,' Lipman added. 'We've seen a lot of anger among employees over a whole variety of issues.'

Pichai graduated in India and was then given a scholarship at Stanford University in the US. He is partly credited with overseeing the success of Google's Android mobile phone operating system and the Chrome internet browser.

In an email to Alphabet staff after his promotion, Pichai said: 'The founders have given us an incredible chance to have an impact on the world. Thanks to them, we have a timeless mission, enduring values, and a culture of collaboration and exploration that makes it exciting to come to work every day. It's a strong foundation on which we will continue to build.'

Page and Brin will retain 51 per cent voting control, meaning they can veto decisions by Pichai.


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