Alphabet’s Chief Legal Officer Stepping Down Amid Investigation

SAN FRANCISCO — David Drummond, the chief legal officer of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and one of its most senior executives, is leaving the internet giant amid an investigation into his relationships with women who worked at the company.

In an email sent to employees at Google and Alphabet, Mr. Drummond, who joined Google in 2002, said he planned to leave Alphabet at the end of the month. He said that it was the “right time for me to make way for the next generation of leaders” in light of Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google’s founders, stepping back from day-to-day roles at the company.

His resignation comes more than a year after 20,000 Google employees protested the company’s handling of sexual harassment and inappropriate workplace relationships. The protests were a public reckoning for a permissive work culture that had existed since the company’s early days — exemplified by generous exit packages for senior executives even after they were accused of sexual misconduct.

In recent months, Mr. Drummond had come to symbolize how — despite the company’s assertions that it would no longer tolerate such actions — some powerful men in the technology world accused of inappropriate behavior often weathered the storm, landing new jobs or keeping their old ones.

Some employees inside Google were dismayed that Mr. Drummond was not forced to leave after the details of an extramarital relationship he had with a woman who worked for him became public. The concerns about Mr. Drummond’s workplace romances took on new life when he recently married another woman from Google’s legal department.

The departure of Mr. Drummond, who could not be reached for comment on Friday, signals a changing of the guard for Alphabet. He was one of the longest-serving and influential executives at the company. As an outside lawyer for the Silicon Valley firm Wilson Sonsini, he helped draft the original incorporation papers for Google and later became the company’s first general counsel.

He was instrumental in many of the company’s prominent and sometimes controversial moves, including the decision to pull out of the Chinese market in 2010 and the legal battle with media companies over copyright claims on YouTube, which Google acquired in 2006.

Last month, in announcing that Mr. Page and Mr. Brin planned to step down from executive roles at the company, Alphabet announced that Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, would also lead the parent company. When Google in 2015 created the holding company called Alphabet and became one of its subsidiaries, Mr. Drummond was one of the few executives who was tapped to work for the parent company.

Mr. Drummond also oversaw two of Alphabet’s investment arms, GV and CapitalG. At one point, he also served as a board member at Uber after an investment from GV, then called Google Ventures. He stepped down from the Uber board after it became apparent that Uber’s plans for a self-driving car would come into conflict with Google’s own driverless car ambitions.

After the departure of Eric Schmidt, Google’s former chief executive, from Alphabet’s board last year, Mr. Drummond was seen as one of the last major links to its past culture problems.

Jenn Kaiser, an Alphabet spokeswoman, said Mr. Drummond did not receive an exit package. However, his departure had been telegraphed in the last few months as he sold off most of his shares in Alphabet, unloading about $222 million worth of company stock since November.

Based on public securities filings, Google has disclosed that it has paid Mr. Drummond at least $258 million, including stock options and grants, since 2006, according to Equilar, an executive compensation consulting firm. That does not include what Mr. Drummond was paid before the company’s lucrative initial public offering in 2004 and excludes some years when his compensation was not public.

Last year, a committee of independent directors from Alphabet’s board hired a law firm to investigate its handling of allegations of sexual misconduct and inappropriate relationships by current and former executives as part of its legal defense against shareholder lawsuits over its handling of the matters, according to documents viewed by The Times.

The shareholder lawsuits accused the board of enabling the misconduct of Alphabet executives. Among the subjects in the inquiry were Mr. Drummond’s relationships with women at the company, according to the documents.

Mr. Drummond faced additional scrutiny in August when Jennifer Blakely, a former senior contracts manager in Google’s legal department, published an essay on Medium about her relationship with him. She wrote that Google forced her out of the legal department after the birth of their son made it impossible to the hide the relationship. Ms. Blakely was part of the Times article.

Her essay also said that Mr. Drummond had other extramarital relationships with women at the company after they split. At the time, Mr. Drummond said he had never started a relationship with “anyone else who was working at Google or Alphabet.”

In his farewell note, Mr. Drummond did not mention any of the claims.

“I know this company is in the best of hands, and I am excited for what the future holds for Google, for Alphabet and for me,” he wrote.

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