Android Co-Founder Andy Rubin on Leave From Essential Over Report on ‘Inappropriate Relationship’
Andy Rubin, the former head of Google’s Android department, is reportedly taking a leave of absence from Essential, his current tech venture that recently launched a new smartphone that runs on the same Android software he once helped to build.
The Information reported on Tuesday night that Rubin is temporarily stepping away from his role as Essential CEO for “personal reasons,” though the news comes in the wake of The Information’s reporting on claims Rubin that left Google in 2014 after an internal investigation at that company found that he had carried on an “inappropriate relationship” with an employee who worked under him.
According to the report, which cites multiple anonymous sources, Rubin left Google after nine years at the company (which bought Android in 2005) after a woman working under him in the Android division filed a complaint with Human Resources at Google over her relationship with Rubin.
According to The Information, a spokesman for Rubin said the tech exec’s departure from Google was not related to the investigation in question and he denied engaging in a relationship with an employee who reported to him. “Any relationship that Mr. Rubin had while at Google was consensual,” Mike Sitrick, Rubin’s spokesman, told The Information. “Mr. Rubin was never told by Google that he engaged in any misconduct while at Google and he did not, either while at Google or since.”
Fortune contacted Google for comment and we will update this article with any response.
An Essential spokesperson told Fortune that Rubin asked to take a leave of absence “to deal with personal matters” at a company board meeting earlier this month. “The board agreed [to Rubin’s request] and our President, Niccolo de Masi, will continue to run day to day operations at Essential,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
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Rubin launched Essential in 2015 with the goal of releasing a new smartphone on the Android mobile operating system to compete directly with devices made by rivals like Samsung as well as Apple’s iPhone. The company, which also plans to release a voice-controlled home speaker to rival the Google Home and Amazon’s Echo, had been valued as high as $1 billion as recently as this summer, following a $300 million funding round led by Access Technology Ventures.
However, Essential’s new smartphone suffered an extremely disappointing rollout this fall, selling only 5,000 units in the two weeks after its launch in September. After launching at $699, Essential recently slashed the price for the smartphone to $399 in a Cyber Monday special on Amazon.