Asia Amazon Google

Android’s Andy Rubin Left Google After Inquiry Found Inappropriate Relationship

Andy Rubin, the creator of Android and a key executive at Google Inc. for nine years, left the company in 2014 shortly after an internal investigation determined that he had carried on an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate, The Information has learned.

Mr. Rubin has taken a leave of absence from his new smartphone startup, Essential, for personal reasons, the firm’s employees were told on Monday. The Information had earlier contacted Mr. Rubin’s spokesman for this story.

Google initiated its investigation after an employee complained to the company’s human resources division about her relationship with Mr. Rubin, according to three people familiar with the matter. The people declined to elaborate on the specific nature of the woman’s complaint against Mr. Rubin.

The Takeaway
• Google concluded Rubin had inappropriate relationship
• Rubin Left Google Shortly After Inquiry
• Rubin has taken leave of absence from Essential

Like many companies, Google has a policy that prohibits supervisors from having a relationship with a subordinate. Any manager entering into such a relationship has to report it to the company, which will move one of the two to a different department. The woman who made the complaint worked in Google’s Android division while Mr. Rubin ran it, The Information has confirmed.

Mike Sitrick, a spokesman for Mr. Rubin, denied that Mr. Rubin had done anything wrong or that his departure from Google was related to the complaint and investigation.

“Any relationship that Mr. Rubin had while at Google was consensual,” Mr. Sitrick said, and did not involve any person who reported directly to him. “Mr. Rubin was never told by Google that he engaged in any misconduct while at Google and he did not, either while at Google or since.”

Mr. Rubin has said publicly that it was his decision to leave Google. At the time of his departure, he was heading Google’s nascent robotic division, which he established in 2013 after leaving the Android team he created and ran. Oversight of that team was ultimately given to Sundar Pichai, who is now Google’s CEO. In a 2016 article published in Wired, Mr. Rubin said he left Google because he was impatient about the time it would take to remain and pursue basic research to create human-like robotic assistants. 

Back in 2014, a member of Google’s HR department informed Mr. Rubin’s accuser that the investigation resulted in a recommendation that Mr. Rubin should face disciplinary action, a person with firsthand knowledge of the inquiry said. The Information could not verify what type of discipline had been recommended, or whether it had been administered. Two people familiar with the investigation said the conclusions were also discussed with Mr. Rubin.

These people, who didn't want to be named because the matter was confidential, said the internal investigation concluded that Mr. Rubin’s behavior was improper and showed bad judgement.

Mr. Rubin left Google in October 2014, soon after he and his accuser were presented with the results of the internal investigation. He went on to found Playground, a venture capital firm and technology incubator. Google is one of Playground’s investors.

Revelations about the circumstances surrounding Mr. Rubin’s departure from Google follow a cascade of sexual misconduct allegations across tech, media and entertainment, which have generated unprecedented scrutiny this year and toppled previously respected figures.

Mr. Rubin is considered one of Silicon Valley’s most admired minds. In 1999, he founded Danger, a hardware company that created the T-Mobile Sidekick, one of the first popular smartphones. He was on the cutting edge of the move from desktop to mobile when he helped found Android in 2003, a company (and its namesake operating system) Google acquired in 2005. Mr. Rubin helmed Google’s Android division from the time the firm was acquired until 2013. During that time, he oversaw the commercial launch of Android in 2007. As of last year, Android powered 88% of the world’s smartphones.

He started working on Essential toward the end of 2015 and launched a high-end smartphone based on Android software earlier this year, attempting to take on the iPhone and others. But according to one person close to the situation, initial sales were disappointing. The company slashed the phone’s retail price by $200. Essential has raised more than $300 million from investors that include, Foxconn and Tencent.

UPDATE: In a statement issued on Wednesday, an Essential spokesperson said: "At our last regularly scheduled board meeting earlier in November, Andy asked for a leave of absence to deal with personal matters. The Board agreed and our President, Niccolo de Masi, will continue to run day to day operations at Essential."

Amir Efrati contributed to this article.

Get access to exclusive coverage
Read deeply reported stories from the largest newsroom in tech.
Latest Articles
Crypto Global Crypto
Robinhood Hits New Low Amid Crypto Selloff; Lit Protocol Connects NFT Owners
Robinhood Hits New Low Amid Crypto Selloff; Lit Protocol Connects NFT Owners
Cryptocurrencies are down from their historic highs seen in November, as is Coinbase, the leading American cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume. But Robinhood, the company operating a popular retail trading platform for both stocks and cryptocurrencies, has had the worst decline of the bunch. Bitcoin and ethereum are both down more than 45% from $69,000 and $4,800, their all-time high...
Latest Briefs
New DOJ Antitrust Head Kanter Plans to Eschew Merger Settlements
Google Faces New State Suits Over Location Tracking
Chime Said to Tap Goldman Sachs for Upcoming IPO
Stay in the know
Receive a summary of the day's top tech news—distilled into one email.
Access on the go
View stories on our mobile app and tune into our weekly podcast.
Join live video Q&A’s
Deep-dive into topics like startups and autonomous vehicles with our top reporters and other executives.
Enjoy a clutter-free experience
Read without any banner ads.
Images by Microsoft; Activision. Art by Mike Sullivan
News Analysis
Eight Takeaways From the Microsoft-Activision Deal
Microsoft’s $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard may have caught the market by surprise, but the deal makes sense on a number of levels.
Nick Tran. Photo by Hulu. Art by Mike Sullivan
TikTok’s Global Marketing Chief Abruptly Departs
TikTok’s leaders have pushed out Nick Tran, the company’s head of global marketing, two people familiar with the situation told The Information.
Microsoft's Chetan Nyak. Photo by Microsoft. Art by Mike Sullivan
The Big Interview Venture Capital Startups
Microsoft Quantum Computing Executive Sees Progress After Lagging Rivals
For more than 15 years, researchers at Microsoft have been chasing the idea of building a better quantum computer, an ultrapowerful machine that promises to accelerate everything from drug discovery to the development of electric batteries.
Art by Mike Sullivan
Exclusive Media/Telecom Entertainment
Inside the Battle for Streaming’s Home Screens: Hollywood Egos Collide With Algorithms
Last summer, executives at Eurosport—a London-based live sports TV network owned by U.S. media company Discovery—couldn’t believe their eyes.
Art by Haejin Park. Photo courtesy Caroline Spiegel.
The Big Read Startups Culture
Caroline Spiegel’s Porn Revolution
Birds chirp and wind rustles through leaves—the sounds of early fall. “Man, it’s beautiful out here,” remarks a deep, crackly male voice.
Illustration by Josh Brill.
Social Studies Crypto Culture
The Shoe Industry Is Hyping Virtual Sneakers for the Metaverse. So Far, Real Sneakerheads Aren’t Buying
TJ Keasal has been dressing up her videogame characters in new-release Nikes and Adidas since she was in middle school.