Alphabet CEO Larry Page doesn't seem to know very much about his company's fight with Uber

Key Points
  • Alphabet CEO Larry Page sounds far removed from decision-making about the company's self-driving car unit, Waymo
  • Page's answers to deposition questions for the Waymo - Uber lawsuit suggest he was unaware of key issues being contested
Caption:Larry Page, co-founder and chief executive officer at Google Inc.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

CEO Larry Page appears far removed from making decisions about the company's self-driving car unit, based on answers he gave in a legal deposition last month.

The two-hour deposition on July 17 was conducted by lawyers for Uber, which is locked in a high-stakes legal battle with Alphabet's Waymo division over a key autonomous-vehicle technology.

a former engineer in Google's self-driving car division, of stealing files containing trade secrets and taking them to Otto, a rival upstart acquired by Uber in August 2016.

Google lawyers have filed documents in the case stating that former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was aware of the stolen documents when Uber bought Otto last year.

Uber denied that accusation, saying it didn't know of the stolen files at the time of the acquisition.

Yet it was Page, in the deposition, who gave responses suggesting he was in the dark about his company's own autonomous-vehicle efforts.

According to a transcript of the deposition, as previously noticed by Business Insider, Page said he knew little about many of the issues being contested in the suit.

Uber: You're not familiar with the details of the trade secrets that are at issue here?

Page: Yes.

Uber: You don't know, for example, what the trade secrets are that Uber allegedly misappropriated?

Page: No, I do not.

Uber: Whenever it was that you learned -- let me make sure I'm clear on this. You don't remember, sitting here today, when you learned or how you learned that Uber may have misappropriated Google or Waymo trade secrets; is that right?

Page: That's correct.

Uber: And you don't remember how you learned?

Page: I mean, that's correct, yes.

Another section dealt with the apparently massive bonuses that Waymo pays some engineers. This came up because Uber is claiming that Levandowski may have downloaded the proprietary information to his hard drive because he thought it would help protect a $120 million bonus Waymo owed him.

But Page apparently doesn't recall much about those huge bonuses, or really how Waymo got started, either.

Uber: Do you recall that there was concern that, without a bonus program, some of the Project Chauffeur people would leave and set up their own start-up?

Page: I don't recall that exact concern. But, in any effort, retention is always something that you would focus on.

Uber: At Google, do you have something that you call autonomous units?

Page: I think at some points we did.


Uber: But, at least back at the time that Project Chauffeur was started, was Project Chauffeur considered an autonomous unit at Google?

Page: I don't recall exactly how it got started. It was also part of X's Genesis, I believe, but that was quite a while ago.

In another part, he claimed he wasn't really all that involved in filing the lawsuit, either.

Uber: Did you authorize the filing of the lawsuit against Uber?

Page: I mean, I'm certainly aware of it, yeah, and then allowed it to proceed, I suppose. I'm not sure I authorized it. I'm not sure that's the right word.

Uber: Well, could a lawsuit of this magnitude be filed without your consent and approval?

Page: I mean, I guess I'm not -- I'm the CEO of the company -- parent company of Waymo, and Waymo operates more or less as an independent company.

Uber: Is Waymo authorized to file a lawsuit like this on its own without even consulting you?

Page: I mean, I don't know all the details of that.

Page's answers were so unhelpful that Uber's lawyers have asked the judge to order him to sit for another deposition.

The judge had previously said that Sergey Brin, the other Google co-founder, "better show up" for his deposition.

Read a redacted transcript of the deposition here.