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Inside the Problem with Alphabet

Alphabet CEO Larry Page was in recent discussions to hire Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk, to lead Andy Rubin’s former robotics unit, say people briefed on the discussions. The appointment would have ended an almost year-long search for a leader to wrangle Alphabet’s messy group of robotics startups.

But the discussions fell through for a mix of reasons, including how much control Mr. Bass would have over the unit. The episode highlights a big question hanging over Alphabet: Will the structure of the company allow Mr. Page to recruit the best talent to start up new companies or take over one of the existing ones?

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That so many questions remain about Alphabet speaks to the seemingly rushed nature of the corporate structure change, which was more about Mr. Page leaving Google Inc. than anything else. Now he and Mr. Kamangar need to figure out how to make Alphabet better than Google.

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People with knowledge of the ongoing formation of Alphabet say the struggle to lure people like Mr. Bass is indicative of an inherent weaknesses of Alphabet.