Google Hires Eli Lilly Veteran as CFO Amid AI Shift


As Google (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) pivots towards integrating AI technology across its services, its parent company, Alphabet, is welcoming a new CFO.

Anat Ashkenazi, who has spent 23 years at the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY), will assume the role of Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President of Google and Alphabet at the end of next month, according to an announcement made by the tech company on Wednesday.

This transition occurs at a crucial time for Google. The company, valued at over two trillion dollars, is deeply engaged in leveraging the excitement and capabilities of generative AI. It is making significant investments in data centers and infrastructure while updating its key products to secure a leading position in the emerging AI market. Known for its dominance in digital advertising, Google aims to lead the next era of computing.

Ashkenazi’s tenure at Eli Lilly was marked by remarkable growth, with the company’s share price soaring nearly 700% in the past five years. Some of Eli Lilly’s recent innovations include Mounjaro and Zepbound, drugs that are gaining popularity for their ability to lower blood sugar and aid in weight loss.

Ruth Porat, who has been Google’s CFO since 2015, was promoted to President and Chief Investment Officer last year. She now oversees investments in Other Bets, as well as regulatory and international expansion matters.

Following the announcement, Google shares increased by 0.9% on Wednesday.

This year has seen intense competition to deploy new software built on large language models, following a period of uncertainty and volatility for Google and its Big Tech counterparts.

During the pandemic, investors flocked to tech companies, but as the economy began to reopen, inflation surged to historic levels. The Federal Reserve’s tightening measures initially hit the tech sector hard, leading to widespread layoffs and significant financial challenges.

However, the excitement surrounding AI’s potential has revitalized the tech industry, presenting Ashkenazi with both significant opportunities and challenges.

Google, initially perceived as lagging behind after the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, has since introduced numerous AI services for businesses and consumers. Nonetheless, there have been setbacks.

Some of Google’s latest AI features fell short, drawing criticism and giving competitors an edge. For instance, at a major event last year, Google’s chatbot Bard provided incorrect information about a NASA space telescope, resulting in a $100 billion market value loss. More recently, users of Bard’s successor, Gemini, reported inaccurate or unexpected depictions of historical figures. Last month, Google’s new AI Overviews search tool also delivered erroneous or absurd responses to some queries.

A significant challenge for Ashkenazi will be monetizing these AI tools while protecting Google’s core search business, which may face threats from users increasingly relying on AI services.

Despite recent missteps, many believe Google is well-positioned to benefit from the AI shift. The company reported impressive quarterly results in April and further pleased shareholders with a new cash dividend and a substantial stock repurchase program, boosting shares by over 25% for the year.

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