Facing a federal conflict-of-interest probe, Arthur Levinson, chairman of biotech giant Genentech, resigned from Google (GOOG)'s board on Monday. The move comes nine weeks after Google CEO Eric Schmidt left the board of Apple (AAPL), where Levinson also serves. The presence of both men on Apple's board had prompted a Federal Trade Commission investigation, launched in May, over whether Schmidt and Levinson's board service violated federal competition rules.
Google and Apple, two tech powerhouses often seen as allies against Microsoft (MSFT)'s domination of the operating system and browser market, are moving closer into direct competition now that Google is striding forcefully into the mobile phone fray with its Android open-source mobile-phone operating system.
Last week, Google announced a partnership with mobile giant Verizon (VZ) Wireless to market Android-equipped smartphones that will compete against Apple's iPhone.
In a statement, Google made no mention of the FTC probe, and CEO Eric Schmidt described Levinson as a good friend and valued colleague. "Art has been a key part of Google's success these past five years, offering unvarnished advice and vital counsel on every big issue and opportunity Google has faced," Schmidt said. "Though he leaves as a member of our Board, Art will always have a special place at Google."
Levinson, who has served on Google's board of directors since the company's IPO in 2004, made similarly boring comments. "Working with Eric, Larry, Sergey and the whole Google team has been a remarkable experience for me. I greatly admire what they've built and have no doubt that Google has a terrific future," Levinson said in the statement.
Levinson's resignation from Google's board comes as both the seach giant and Apple are preparing to report quarterly earnings -- Google this Thursday, and Apple next Monday. A Google spokesman did not immediately return a request for additional comment.
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