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Thursday, August 29, 2013

At Google, a Love Triangle and a Departing Executive

When summer turns to fall, the Silicon Valley gossip scene is usually tantalized by the next iPhone. But this year, it is Google’s secrets, not Apple’s, that have people abuzz.

On Wednesday, reports from Google emerged about a love triangle involving Google’s co-founder, Sergey Brin, and Hugo Barra, an Android executive who announced the same day that he would leave the company for a rival phone maker in China.

The tech blog AllThingsD reported Wednesday that Mr. Brin was separated from his wife, Anne Wojcicki, and dating a Google employee who was previously in a relationship with Mr. Barra.

See why this is the talk of the valley?

The news set off a burst of publicity in tech blogs and whispers among people in the industry.

Two people with knowledge of the relationships, who would speak only anonymously, confirmed that the couple had separated, and that Mr. Brin was involved with Mr. Barra’s ex. Google declined to comment on the personal lives of employees.

Mr. Barra is a major loss for Google because he was one of the most public faces of Android, often presenting new products onstage, most recently last month, when he introduced the new Nexus 7 tablet in San Francisco.

While he will continue to promote Android in his new job at the fast-expanding Chinese company Xiamoi, he is also working for a competitor of Motorola, the phone company owned by Google. The Android team has been in transition since Andy Rubin, its founder and former leader, stepped down in March.

Mr. Brin and Ms. Wojcicki, who have two children, were married six years ago in a secretive wedding in the Bahamas. The swimsuit-clad couple invited guests to swim to a sandbar for the ceremony.

Their separation has other ties to Google’s business. Ms. Wojcicki, who was often spotted at Google events, is the chief executive and co-founder of 23andMe, the personal genetics company, in which Google has invested. She is also the sister of Susan Wojcicki, Google’s senior vice president for advertising, who met Google’s founders when she rented them her garage to start the company.

Should they divorce, the couple has a prenuptial agreement in which Mr. Brin retains the voting power he has through ownership of Google stock, according to a person briefed on the issue. Mr. Brin’s shares make up the bulk of his $23 billion fortune. They will continue their family charitable endeavors, the person said.

As for Google’s rules on an executive dating an employee, its code of conduct says that relationships between co-workers that create “an actual or apparent conflict of interest” can lead to re-assignment or termination. Mr. Brin currently oversees special projects at the Google X lab, including Google Glass.