Google co-founder Sergey Brin's affair with a 20-something subordinate made Google CEO Larry Page "insanely upset," according to a voyeuristic new Vanity Fair piece delving into the love triangle that broke up Brin's marriage.
While many aspects of Brin's breakup with Anne Wojcicki -- a genetic-testing entrepreneur -- and his affair with Google Glass marketing manager Amanda Rosenberg have been widely reported, the anonymously sourced story offered new details of the fallout, related in a salacious tone that riveted its Silicon Valley audience. For instance, "ethically strict" Page, also a Google co-founder, was so upset by Brin's affair that he stopped talking to him for a period of time. Google employees also were reportedly disturbed by the romance.
"Some people were furious internally, especially women, that Sergey and Amanda were not (professionally) separated," a source told the magazine.
All of the sources for the story went unnamed, including one identified as a friend of Wojcicki's, another as a friend of both Wojcicki and Brin, a third as "an industry observer" and current and former Googlers.
Google declined to comment to both Vanity Fair and this newspaper.
The piece about the affair at Brin's secretive pet project, Google X, was a hot topic on Twitter, with some tweeters calling it a trashy read that was impossible to put down.
"Not everybody is in that kind of economic class, so there is that intrigue as well as the intrigue around these two guys (Brin and Page), who were certifiable geeks in school who went on to build this empire," said Amy Andersen, the self-described "love concierge" and founder and CEO of Menlo Park-based Linx Dating. "So people always want to parachute into the private lives of these kinds of people. (Brin) seems like he's a very private guy. Now this whole scandal is quite public and has created a monster that he didn't really think about."
The story offers no details about how the affair between Brin and Rosenberg began. It does include fawning descriptions of Brin as a "handsome, compact man with a toned physique, an enviable head of hair, and sparkling brown eyes."
Rosenberg, who is characterized as being in her mid-20s, is described as a "stunning Englishwoman with Chinese and Jewish roots, (who) often dyes her long dark hair with streaks of color, like burnt sienna. She has a comedian's sense of timing and a propensity for sharing her emotions widely on social media. She went to the same boarding school as the duchess of Cambridge and Princess Eugenie."
The story says Wojcicki, "in her professional life as well as her personal one, is a powerful woman with ambitions that are enormous, which she funnels into her genetic-testing company, 23andMe."
Aside from a prurient, insider's view of the breakup of a marriage from the perspectives of anonymous witnesses, the details of Brin's affair do provide an opportunity to critique how similar situations could be handled better, David Kadue, a Los Angeles labor and employment attorney, told this newspaper.
Brin, who reportedly has a prenuptial agreement with Wojcicki, has exposed himself to a potential multimillion-dollar lawsuit if his relationship with Rosenberg turns ugly, Kadue said.
"While there's nothing unlawful about a consensual sexual affair within a company, things happen," he said.
Instead of incurring the wrath of his co-founder, Brin should have been candid with Page and Google's board of directors about the affair and created a legal avenue for Rosenberg to report any complaints to superiors, Kadue said. At the very least, Kadue said, Brin should have changed Rosenberg's reporting assignments.
On the other hand, Kadue said, if Rosenberg had come to him for "quasi-paternal" -- rather than legal -- advice, "I would advise her to find another job."
Contact Dan Nakaso at 408-271-3648. Follow him at Twitter.com/dannakaso.