Google board member leaves amid probe

Google said Monday that one of its corporate directors has stepped down from its board.

Although Google did not give a reason for Arthur Levinson’s departure, many are connecting it to the Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust inquiry into the close ties between Apple and Google board members. The FTC launched the investigation earlier this year.

Levinson, former CEO of Genentech, is a corporate director of Apple and became a Google director five years ago.

ADVERTISEMENT
Antitrust laws prohibit a person’s presence on the board of two rival companies when it would reduce competition between the firms. Google CEO Eric Schmidt had urged Levinson to stay on the board, saying he thought the revenue that Apple and Google received from competing products was less than 2 percent of either company’s total sales, the limit set under the Clayton Act of 1914.

Schmidt resigned from Apple’s board in August.

Al Gore and Bill Campbell, former CEO of Intuit, are both Apple directors who are also advisers to Google.

Google and Apple were once seen as allies against Microsoft’s dominance in the technology industry. They now compete in an increasing number of areas, including smartphones, operating systems and photo-editing and -sharing software. The companies have also crossed paths at the Federal Communications Commission, which in August asked Apple why it was not allowing Google’s Voice application on the iPhone.

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz voiced his approval of Levinson’s departure.

“Google, Apple and Mr. Levinson should be commended for recognizing that overlapping board members between competing companies raise serious antitrust issues and for their willingness to resolve our concerns without the need for litigation,” he said in a statement. “Beyond this matter, we will continue to monitor companies that share board members and take enforcement actions where appropriate.”