Longtime Google executive and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki is stepping down from her role.
Wojcicki announced her departure by publishing a letter to employees on YouTube’s official blog, where she explains: “I’ve decided to step back from my role as the head of YouTube and start a new chapter focused on my family, health, and personal projects I'm passionate about.”
She will be succeeded by Neal Mohan, who was previously chief product officer at YouTube and has long been considered as a potential successor. The two have worked together at Google for more than 15 years.
Wojcicki has been at the helm of the world’s largest video sharing site for nine years, and a Google employee for more than 25 years.
She is credited with steering Google’s decision and strategy to acquire YouTube for $1.65 billion in 2006, and building YouTube’s ads business into the juggernaut it is today.
Under her leadership YouTube branched out from a video site into a multi-service platform, with verticalized offerings focused on music, gaming and kids, and ad-free paid subscriptions. It said in November that it had 80 million paid subscribers for its YouTube Music and YouTube Premium products.
But Wojcicki leaves YouTube at a challenging time as the video platform navigates cratering ad revenue and legal hearings about its role in the spread of terrorism online.
YouTube’s ad revenue fell into the red in the third quarter of 2022 and worsened to an 8% decline in Q4 as brands pulled ad spend amid economic uncertainty.
It also comes just days before YouTube and its parent company is set to present oral arguments to the U.S. Supreme Court in a case, Gonzalez v. Google, about whether it should be liable for content published on its platform.
Wojcicki has deep ties to Google, joining in its early start-up days in 1998 as its 16th employee, when she rented her Menlo Park, CA. garage to co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin for $1,700 per month shortly after they incorporated the search engine company. Brin is married to Wojcicki’s sister Anne.
In her letter, she describes the many hats she has worn at Google over the years, including “managed marketing, co-created Google Image Search, led Google’s first Video and Book search, as well as early parts of AdSense’s creation, worked on the YouTube and DoubleClick acquisitions, served as SVP of Ads, and for the last nine years, the CEO of YouTube.”
Mohan joined Google through its pivotal acquisition of ad buying platform DoubleClick in 2007, rising up the ranks to become SVP of display and video ads. He moved to YouTube in 2015 as its chief product officer, where he headed up major launches including YouTube Music and YouTube TV, as well as leading the platform’s Trust and Safety team.
News of Wojcicki’s departure was met with an outpouring of personal stories and well wishes from the industry.
Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher called Wojcicki a “quiet and self-effacing legend, who deserved more bows than she took.”
Wojcicki is the third senior woman at a major tech firm to resign in recent months. Meta’s former chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, who was Mark Zuckberg’s second-in-command, stepped down in October after 14 years of steering the company through rapid growth. Just last week, Meta announced the departure of chief business officer Marne Levine following a 13 year-stint.
Some business leaders have expressed concerns about the impact on gender diversity among tech leadership, with both Wojcicki and Sandberg being replaced by men.
Additional reporting by Jessica Heygate