The career rise and fabulous life of Google cofounder Larry Page, who just stepped down CEO of Alphabet

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Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters

Larry Page is one of the most powerful people in the world.

The quirky, soft-spoken computer scientist co-founded Google with Sergey Brin in 1998. As Google evolved into a multi-billion-dollar juggernaut, Page stayed at the helm, first as Google’s CEO and later running its parent company, Alphabet.

But on Tuesday, Page announced that he, along with Brin, would be stepping down from their roles at Alphabet. Brin had served as the company’s president. Sundar Pichai will now serve as both Google and Alphabet CEO.

So who is Larry Page and how did he get to where he is today?

Here’s his story.

Jillian D’Onfro contributed to an earlier version of this story.


Gloria and Carl Page had their second son, Lawrence, on March 26, 1973. They both taught computer science at Michigan State University and filled their home with computers and tech magazines that enthralled Larry from a very young age.

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Michigan State’s campus.
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Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

They enrolled him in a Montessori school. Such programs are known to foster independence and creativity, and Page now credits “that training of not following rules and orders, and being self-motivated and questioning what’s going on in the world” as influencing his later attitudes and work.

Source: YouTube


At 12, Page read a biography about the brilliant inventor Nikola Tesla, who died in debt and obscurity. The ending made him cry, and inspired Page to not only want to build world-changing technologies, but to have the business sense to know how to spread them. “I figured that inventing things wasn’t any good,” he has said. “You really had to get them out into the world and have people use them to have any effect.”

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Nikola Tesla.
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Wikimedia Commons

Source: Business Insider, Achievement.org


Besides tinkering with electronics, Page also played saxophone growing up, and he once told Fortune that his musical training in part led “to the high-speed legacy of Google” (Apparently he also tried to pick up percussion in the last few years).

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Andrew Kelly/Reuters

Source: Fortune


During his time as an undergrad at University of Michigan, Page started mulling the future of transportation, something he’s still interested in today. He joined the school’s solar-car team (pictured below) and suggested that Michigan build a monorail-like “personal rapid-transit system” between its campuses.

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Wikimedia

Today, Google parent company Alphabet is working on both self-driving cars through its company, Waymo, and data-driven transportation improvements through Sidewalk Labs.

Source: Business Insider


After graduation, Page headed west to Stanford for his Ph.D. There, he met Sergey Brin in 1995. The two became close friends, geeking out about computer science.

After Page suddenly woke up from a dream at 23 wondering if he could “download the whole web,” he started working on an idea to rank webpages by their inbound links, instead of how many times they contained a queried word. He enlisted Brin’s help and they started collaborating on a search engine they initially called BackRub.


Soon, BackRub became Google — also a mathematical term — because it reflected Page and Brin’s mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Source: Google


Both Page and Brin are “burners,” or avid attendees of the free-wheeling art festival Burning Man. The year after incorporating Google, they created the first-ever Google Doodle to let people know they weren’t around to do damage control if the site broke — they had retreated to the Nevada desert for the festival.

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Google

Page has admitted that he’s better at big-picture ideas than management, in part because he doesn’t enjoy dealing with people. As a leader, he focuses on results and has an affinity for ultra-ambitious ideas.

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Reuters

Business Insider’s Nich Carlson reported that when Page was first CEO, he wrote down the following management rules that guided him:

  • Don’t delegate: Do everything you can yourself to make things go faster.
  • Don’t get in the way if you’re not adding value. Let the people actually doing the work talk to each other while you go do something else.
  • Don’t be a bureaucrat.
  • Ideas are more important than age. Just because someone is junior doesn’t mean they don’t deserve respect and cooperation.
  • The worst thing you can do is stop someone from doing something by saying, “No. Period.” If you say no, you have to help them find a better way to get it done.

Omid Kordestani, Google’s business founder and a confidante of Page, described him as “curious, idealistic” and “focused on changing the world and having an impact through technology.” He doesn’t shy away from huge goals, like mapping the entire planet or digitizing every book ever published.

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Reuters

Source: Business Insider


Page ran Google as CEO until 2001, when Eric Schmidt was brought in to lead the company as its “adult supervision.” Both Brin and Page were wary of all the CEO candidates, but when they learned Schmidt was originally a programmer and a “burner” too, they felt that at least he’d be a “cultural fit” at the company.

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Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Source: Fast Company


Page wasn’t happy about having to relinquish his CEO spot at first but gradually became comfortable being less involved in the day-to-day management of the company.

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Getty Images Europe

Source: Business Insider


In 2007, he actually felt like he was still spending too much time in meetings, so he got rid of his assistants so that anyone who wanted to talk to him had to physically track him down.

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Justin Sullivan / Getty

Source: Business Insider


But during that time, Page was still very actively involved in Google’s product and vision. He orchestrated the acquisition of Andy Rubin’s company, Android, without telling Schmidt until he’d sealed the deal.

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Former Android boss Andy Rubin.
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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


But after 10 years, Page decided to take back the CEO title in 2011.


He reorganized the company’s senior management, and before the end of 2012, the company had launched Google Plus, its first Chromebook laptop, Google Glass, high-speed-internet service Fiber, and more.

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Page continued leading Google until 2015 when the company blew up its corporate structure, and Page became the CEO of parent company Alphabet instead.

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Alphabet

Page wrote in his letter about the news that becoming Alphabet’s CEO would help with “getting more ambitious things done” and “taking the long-term view” to improve “the lives of as many people as we can.”


In that role, Page spent much of his time researching new technologies, meeting and enlisting really smart people, and imagining what Alphabet’s next moonshot bet might be.

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David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Source: The New York Times


He’s currently ranked No. 6 on Forbes’ list of billionaires, with a net worth of $58.9 billion.

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Steve Jennings/Getty Images

Source: Forbes


Throughout it all, Page has kept information about his personal life closely guarded. It was a rare event when he opened up about having vocal-cord paralysis in 2013. The condition makes his voice softer than it used to be and makes long monologues difficult.

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REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Source: Google Plus


In 2007, Page married Lucinda Southworth, a research scientist. The couple rented out a private island in the Caribbean and invited 600 guests. Virgin Group founder Richard Branson was Page’s best man.

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Kimberly White/Getty

Source: ABC News


Page isn’t particularly showy with his wealth, but he lives well. He, Southworth, and two kids reside in a Palo Alto compound that includes a $7 million home as well as an “eco-mansion” with a rooftop garden and solar panels.

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Larry Page and Lucy Southworth in 2013.
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C Flanigan/FilmMagic

Source: SFGate


Page’s flashiest purchase is perhaps the 194-foot super-yacht called “Senses” that he bought for $45 million in 2011. It has a helipad and a Jacuzzi on its deck.

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Katie Warren/Business Insider

Source: The Daily Mail


And collectively, Page, Brin, and Schmidt have also purchased at least eight private jets.

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Plans not pictured.
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Shutterstock/Mikhail Starodubov

Back in 2006, court documents revealed that Schmidt had to help settle an argument between the founders, who were bickering about what size beds the “party plane” needed. They also wanted to outfit the plane with hammocks and a cocktail bar.

Source: The Mercury News


Page also dedicates part of his wealth to causes he believes in. He’s a personal investor in Planetary Resources, which aims to mine asteroids; Tesla; and Twigtale, a personalized children’s book startup founded by his sister-in-law.

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Justin Sullivan/Getty

Source: Forbes, Crunchbase


In 2006, he also started The Carl Victor Page Memorial Foundation in honor of his father. Carl Page died soon after Larry left for grad school because of complications caused by polio he contracted as a child.

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Getty Images/Justin Sullivan

Source: Foundation Directory Online, Google


But perhaps the best part of Page’s job is that he has also gotten to chase his far-flung aspirations through Alphabet. The company’s search engine ads machine pumps out so much money that Alphabet can afford to spend on “other bets” that Page is passionate about, like building smarter home appliances, spreading internet through its Project Loon balloons, and extending human life.

Source: Business Insider


These days, Page seems most interested in flying cars. Page has reportedly invested $100 million of his own money in “Zee.Aero,” an aircraft company working on a “revolutionary new form of transportation.” Page is also an investor in Kitty Hawk, a mysterious flying-car startup. The company recently built a fully electric, single-person aircraft.

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The Kitty Hawk Flyer.
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Kitty Hawk

Source: Business Insider, Business Insider


In December 2019, Page and Brin announced in a letter that they were stepping down from their roles as Alphabet CEO and president, respectively. “Alphabet and Google no longer need two CEOs and a President,” the pair wrote.

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REUTERS/Kimberly White

Source: Google