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Alphabet Legal Head Drummond Exits, Giving Its New CEO Chance To Shake Up Team

Alphabet’s new Chief Executive Sundar Pichai on Friday gained the opportunity to reshape the leadership of Google’s parent with the exit of Chief Legal Officer David Drummond, whose outsized strategic role was overshadowed by employee concerns about his personal relationship with a subordinate.

Drummond, also senior vice president of corporate development, had been with Google since its start in 1998. He incorporated the company as outside counsel, winning the business of co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. He later spent nearly 18 years as the company’s top lawyer and one of its few black executives.

Scrutiny centered on Drummond as the board last year investigated the company’s handling of sexual misconduct complaints throughout its workforce, and he became a lightning rod for criticism about what some employees viewed as tolerance for poor behavior.

Pichai now has his first big chance to make his mark on Alphabet leadership since Page and Brin left him day-to-day reins of the company last month.

Drummond’s last day is Jan. 31, and a replacement has not been decided yet, Alphabet said.

“With Larry and Sergey now leaving their executive roles at Alphabet, the company is entering an exciting new phase, and I believe that it’s also the right time for me to make way for the next generation of leaders,” Drummond said in an email to employees shared by Google.

Some employees had questioned Drummond’s role at the company after the New York Times in 2018 reported on an extramarital affair he had with subordinate, Jennifer Blakely, starting in 2004. She told the paper that she was effectively forced to transfer teams to comply with Google’s workplace dating policy.

Blakely had a son with Drummond, but in August 2019 she publicly criticized him for not providing support. Drummond responded in a statement calling himself “far from perfect.” Blakely did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

Some shareholders have urged Alphabet to make changes that had been within Drummond’s purview, including greater financial transparency, bigger share buybacks and a management shakeup. Alphabet shares have risen 6.5% this month as analysts expressed optimism about possible changes.

In a departure from company norm, Drummond is not receiving an exit pay package. In recent weeks, Drummond sold more than $200 million worth of his Alphabet shares, leaving him with about $90 million in company stock.

He remains a defendant, alongside other executives, in a lawsuit shareholders brought last year accusing Alphabet leadership of covering up sexual harassment scandals within the company including by awarding lavish exit packages to two top executives found responsible for misconduct.

“While we are glad to see Mr. Drummond is no longer with Alphabet, we still intend to hold him accountable for fiduciary breaches through our litigation,” said Julie Goldsmith Reiser, attorney for the lead plaintiffs.

The board completed an internal investigation last month, but has not publicized findings. The litigation is in mediation, and the board’s findings and resulting actions may become known as it goes on.―US News

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