Verily CEO Conrad does damage control in light of managerial attacks

Verily's Andrew Conrad

Verily CEO Andrew Conrad is doing damage control after an article last week said that he was driving away top talent from the Alphabet ($GOOG) spinoff. The controversial tech helmsman granted a rare interview to a reporter in which he admitted some missteps but ultimately defended the company's progress.

Conrad last week decided not to answer questions for a Stat story, which said that his managerial style caused many employees to quit. That choice was "a catastrophic error in judgment," Conrad told the newspaper in a recent interview.

But that doesn't mean that there's anything amiss behind the scenes, Conrad said. "Business is pretty dang good for us," Conrad told Stat. "That doesn't mean that there's not some people mad. But overall, the morale here is high." And the CEO has good relationships with employees, regulators and partners, he added.

Jessica Mega

Verily CMO Dr. Jessica Mega, who joined the company last year to lead its Baseline study of human heath, also put some weight behind Conrad. Verily is "a really dynamic place" that can challenge people who are not prepared for quick changes, Mega told Stat. Some of those individuals find other jobs within Alphabet, Mega said.

Conrad and Mega's defenses come a week after former Verily employees told the newspaper that the CEO's rash decision-making and difficult personality prompted some employees to resign. People who have worked with Conrad also said that he strained the company's relationships with key regulators and government agencies.

Execs often shop around for new opportunities in the Silicon Valley, Stat pointed out. But if employees at Verily "are getting off the roller coaster before it gets to the first dip," there's a big problem, tech analyst Rob Enderle told the newspaper last week. And the trend could suggest that employees "are losing confidence in the new leadership," Enderle said.

The article was enough to prompt Google co-founder Sergey Brin to hold a town hall-style meeting last week. During the webcast, Brin said that the news coverage painted a "bleak picture of management and products" at Alphabet subsidiaries including Verily. Brin also put up a strong front, saying that he wasn't worried about the loss of top talent from Verily given that overall attrition rates are relatively low, Stat reports.

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Special Report: The most influential people in biopharma today - Andrew Conrad - Verily