Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Justin Sullivan/Getty and Saul Loe/Getty

Being a CEO used to mean something very clear: You were the top dog, answerable only to the collective will of a board of directors. Today's CEOs, by contrast, are often deep down in the org chart, fireable by a boss who in turn is fireable by an even higher-up boss.

The big picture: Regional heads, heads of subsidiaries, heads of business lines — all of them now lay claim to the CEO title. Mark O’Donovan, for instance, is the CEO of Chase Auto, a subsidiary of Chase Manhattan Bank that is itself a subsidiary of JPMorgan Chase.

  • I once reported to a CEO of Gizmodo Media Group, who reported to another CEO of Fusion Media Group, who reported to the chief content officer of Univision, who reported to the CEO of Univision.

Driving the news: Aside from the high-profile shakeup at Alphabet this week, Expedia CEO Mark Okerstrom was fired by his boss, Barry Diller, who really runs the company.

  • Kelly Loeffler, the incoming U.S. senator of Georgia, is currently the CEO of Bakkt, a Bitcoin/cryptocurrency company. She'll give up that job upon taking public office.
  • Bakkt is majority-owned by ICE, which runs huge stock and futures exchanges. Loeffler's current job was really just another in a long line of executive roles she has had at the company.

Alphabet, until this week, had one clear top-dog CEO, Larry Page, and many subsidiary CEOs. Page's direct report Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, was himself the boss of Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube.

  • Pichai is now taking over as CEO of Alphabet, while remaining CEO of Google. But Page and his co-founder Sergey Brin retain control of the board through their super-voting shares.
  • Page's $51.8 billion in Alphabet shares carry an average of 5 votes per share. Pichai's $103 million in Alphabet shares, by contrast, carry an average of 0.07 votes per share. (Employees like Pichai generally get paid in non-voting Class C stock.)
  • When Google employees walked out on their jobs last year to protest the handling of sexual harassment at the company, one of their demands was the appointment of an employee representative to the board. Pichai couldn't deliver on that when he was merely the CEO of Google rather than Alphabet. And it's not clear whether he'd be able to deliver on that even now.

The bottom line: Increasingly, today's CEO is merely an executive hired by the person who is really in control.

  • Pichai will have to face the techlash head-on. Page, meanwhile, will get to bask in his billions without any accountability at all.

Go deeper: Sundar Pichai named CEO of Alphabet, Google's parent company

Go deeper

23 mins ago - World

U.S. threatens to veto UN peacekeeping in Lebanon over Hezbollah concerns

Peacekeepers with Lebanese troops in southern Lebanon. Photo: Jalaa Marey/AFP via Getty

The Trump administration is threatening to veto a resolution to extend the UN's long-standing peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon if its mandate isn't changed, Israeli and U.S. officials tell me.

Why it matters: The U.S. is the main funder of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which has an annual budget of $250 million. The veto threat is a tactical move, and part of a broader effort to put pressure on Iran and its proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10:30 a.m. ET: 20,388,408 — Total deaths: 743,599— Total recoveries: 12,616,973Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10:30 a.m. ET: 5,150,590 — Total deaths: 164,681 — Total recoveries: 1,714,960 — Total tests: 63,252,257Map.
  3. Business: U.S. already feeling effects of ending unemployment benefits — U.S. producer prices rose last month by the most since October 2018.
  4. Public health: America is flying blind on its coronavirus response.

Trump congratulates QAnon conspiracy theorist on GOP runoff win

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump on Wednesday tweeted congratulations to Marjorie Taylor Greene, a vocal QAnon conspiracy theorist who won the Republican nomination in Georgia's deep-red 14th Congressional District runoff.

Why it matters: The president's approval illustrates how the once-fringe conspiracy theory has gained ground within the GOP. Greene is among the at least 11 GOP candidates for Congress who have openly supported or defended the QAnon movement or some of its tenets, per Axios' Jacob Knutson.