The uncertain status of the marriage of Sergey Brin, Google's co-founder, today became clearer, when a spokesperson for Brin and his wife confirmed to ABC News that the couple has separated.
The 40-year-old father of two has separated from his wife of six years, Ann Wojcicki. He reportedly is dating another Google executive—a woman 14 years his junior.
While Google would not confirm or deny the alleged romantic relationship, the representative for Brin and his wife told ABC News that the couple had "been living apart for months…and remain good friends and partners."
Google ties run deep in the Brin family. The sister of Brin's wife also is an executive with the Mountain View, California, company. It was she who years ago rented to Brin and to company co-founder Larry Page the garage where they created the famous search engine.
Anytime word leaks out about a big boss being involved with a subordinate, the potential for embarrassment exists. Google's own guidelines for proper behavior address that possibility. They recommend: "When faced with a potential conflict of interest, ask: Would this activity embarrass Google or me if it showed up on the front page of a newspaper or blog?"
Google's code of conduct, however, also states that a boss engaged in an office romance may not be breaking any rule if the vessel of his ardor does not report to him.
Brin qualifies as one of the richest people in the world. By Forbes' latest estimate, he's got $22.8 billion and ranks the 14th richest person in the U.S. He is hardly alone among wealthy captains of industry when it comes to having marital difficulties. Forbes recently surveyed the status of CEO/billionaire divorce worldwide. It listed the following as being among the most noteworthy de-couplings of recent months and years.
-Harold and Sue Ann Hamm. Reuters in March published a detailed examination of the pending divorce of the Hamms, estimating that Sue Ann stands to get a $3 billion settlement. That's possible, because Harold has (by Forbes' estimate) slightly more than $11 billion. His company, Continental Resources, has more oil and gas drilling rights in the rich shale of North Dakota's Bakken formation than any other company. Forbes thinks Sue Ann's payout could go higher than $3 billion. If she were to get half her husband's money, say $5 billion, hers would be the biggest divorce settlement in U.S. history.
-Rupert and Wendi Deng Murdoch. In June a spokesman for the media titan confirmed that he was filing for divorce. He and Deng had married in 1999. In July 2011 she famously defended him from a pie-wielding attacker during an inquiry in Parliament into a phone-hacking scandal involving then-News Corp. Unknown is what effect the divorce will have on Murdoch's fortune, which Forbes puts at $11.2 billion. In late July Deng reportedly hired celebrated New York divorce attorney William Zabel—a move interpreted as meaning that the couple's divorce—originally expected to be quick and easy—might not be.
-Steve and Elaine Wynn. The couple has divorced twice, most recently in 2010. Forbes says that, according to the terms of the settlement, Steve split his stake in publicly traded Wynn Resorts with Elaine, meaning she got more than $740 million in stock at the time. Forbes says Steve is now worth $2.8 billion and Elaine $1.7 billion. They both continue to work at Wynn Resorts, he as CEO, she as a member of the board.