Android creator Andy Rubin left Google after probe into inappropriate relationship: report

Andy Rubin, creator of Android, left Google in 2014 soon after an internal investigation found he had an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate, according to a new report.

Rubin, who later founded smartphone maker Essential, is now on leave from his new company.

“At our last regularly scheduled board meeting earlier in November, Andy asked for a leave of absence to deal with personal matters,” a spokeswoman for the Palo Alto company said in response to an inquiry by SiliconBeat Wednesday. “The Board agreed and our President, Niccolo de Masi, will continue to run day to day operations at Essential.”

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A spokesman for Rubin is denying any wrongdoing by his client. Google policy prohibits supervisors from having relationships with their subordinates.

“Any relationship that Mr. Rubin had while at Google was consensual,” Mike Sitrick told the Information, which first reported the news. “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.”

According to the Information, Google investigated a complaint by a female employee who worked in the Android division while Rubin was in charge of it.

In 2013, the Android division headed by Rubin was turned over to Sundar Pichai, who’s now Google’s chief executive. Former Google CEO Larry Page was full of praise for Rubin at the time, saying, “Andy, more moonshots, please.” Rubin then worked in Google’s robotics division, and eventually left the company in 2014, nine years after Google’s acquisition of Android. At the time, Rubin’s departure was called a blow to Google’s robotics division, but there was no hint of anything amiss.

“I want to wish Andy all the best with what’s next,” Google CEO Larry Page said in a statement then. “With Android he created something truly remarkable — with a billion-plus happy users. Thank you.” Rubin himself told the Wall Street Journal he left because he wanted to do something new.

When reached by SiliconBeat Wednesday, a Google spokesperson said the company would have no comment.

Rubin — who’s also a former Apple engineer and the founder of Danger of T-Mobile Sidekick fame — started tech startup incubator Playground Global in 2014 before founding Essential, which released its first smartphone this year.

Another high-profile former Google manager was accused of inappropriate behavior while at the company. Amit Singhal was forced to resign as head of engineering at Uber earlier this year after that company found out he was accused of sexual harassment at Google. Singhal, who was senior vice president for search at Google, said in a February statement the accusation wasn’t the reason he left Google in 2016.

The news about Rubin comes as Silicon Valley, as well as the entertainment, political and media worlds, are seeing myriad resignations or firings over allegations of sexual harassment or assault. Wednesday morning, NBC announced it has fired longtime “Today” show host Matt Lauer over an allegation of sexual misconduct.

 

Photo: Andy Rubin at Google’s Mountain View headquarters on May 25, 2010. (Patrick Tehan/Mercury News)

 

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