By Paresh Dave
(Reuters) – Google parent Alphabet (NASDAQ:) Inc on Friday announced the retirement of Chief Legal Officer David Drummond, who has been under scrutiny as the board investigated the company’s handling of sexual misconduct complaints.
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.
His last day will be Jan. 31, Alphabet said in a securities filing.
In recent weeks, Drummond had sold more than $200 million worth of Alphabet shares, leaving him with about $90 million in company stock.
Through blog posts, congressional appearances and media interviews, Drummond’s presence was felt in nearly every public battle the company fought as it crippled traditional businesses in media and telecoms on its way to online dominance.
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.”
Chief Executive Sundar Pichai in 2018 said the company made mistakes in some cases and introduced new procedures aimed at creating equity and transparency in harassment investigations.
The #MeToo movement has forced major shake-ups in management and harassment policy across corporate America.
Drummond has described himself as a diversity advocate, telling Fortune in 2017 that he “pushed” the company to do more on the issue. He encouraged Google to publish data about the demographics of its workforce, and in 2014 he marched into a companywide meeting and spoke alongside colleagues frustrated by police violence against young black men.
When Google re-organized under the Alphabet umbrella in 2015, Page elevated Drummond’s role beyond managing the company’s legal and regulatory problems to overseeing its investment funds and far-off ventures.
Earlier in his tenure, he beat a lawsuit lodged by insurer Geico that would have undermined the company’s now-massive search ads business. He settled with Viacom a copyright infringement lawsuit that could have crushed YouTube on its way to becoming the top online video destination. And he fended off five major book publishers to enable Google to make their copyrighted works searchable online.
Drummond tussled on behalf of Google with rival Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ:) for a decade on executive poaching, anticompetitive conduct and patents, with each company taking its share of licks.
As Google’s lead dealmaker, Drummond oversaw billions of dollars’ worth of acquisitions including of YouTube, DoubleClick and Motorola (NYSE:).
Drummond for a time served as the public face of strong stands against governments around the world. He has regularly advocated for freedoms of speech, and in 2010, he called for trade sanctions on countries that censor the internet, such as China and Turkey. In 2013, he urged the U.S. government to rewrite data privacy laws after a National Security Agency program collecting internet data came to light.
In 2015, Drummond took the lead as the company defied regulatory guidelines in limiting application of Europe’s “right to be forgotten.”
Drummond had been sanctioned twice by the Securities and Exchange Commission – once for accounting regularities related to a previous employer and later for improper handling of stock-based compensation of Google employees prior to the company’s initial public offering.
Drummond served on Uber’s board for nearly three years after Alphabet’s venture capital unit invested in the company, and then-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick described Drummond as a top mentor.