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Eric Schmidt is stepping down as chairman of Google's parent company

JD Lasica / Flickr cc

Eric Schmidt, who has helped lead Google since 2001, is stepping down in January from his post as executive chairman of parent company Alphabet. While the company expects to name a new chairman of its board, it doesn't expect that person to serve as a company executive, as Schmidt did.

Why it matters: Schmidt has been the outside force guiding the company's founders for more than a decade.